San Diego and the A.S. Council should implement a ranked-choice voting system

    Sickened by having to vote for the lesser evil instead of your first choice? Remember “A vote for Nader is a vote for Bush” or “A vote for Perot is a vote for Clinton”?

    Ranked-choice voting, commonly known as instant-runoff voting, would allow voters to rank their candidates according to preference. If no candidate has a majority, the candidate with the smallest portion of the votes is eliminated and his or her votes redistributed to voters’ next preference. The process goes on until a single candidate has a majority of the votes.

    RCV allows for a majority vote without a runoff election, which could have consolidated the four mayoral elections in San Diego into only two, saving taxpayers money and time.

    RCV also allows citizens to vote for candidates they truly want, though the candidates may be less likely to win. For example, if one voted for Ross Perot and he had the smallest portion of the votes he would be eliminated and the votes redistributed to the voter’s second choice, which could be George H.W. Bush or Bill Clinton.

    Would you like to see majority instead of indefinite plurality victories? Candidates like the Governator would have had to gain a majority of the support of California in order to serve as governor, ensuring that, indeed, a majority of the state supports him. 

    If used across the state, primaries could be taken off the ballot. Imagine all the candidates running in only one election. Even if multiple candidates are from the same party, they cannot “steal” each other’s votes, thus eliminating the need for a primary and allowing people from other parties to cross party lines.

    Of course, there are some weaknesses in this reform measure that still need to be resolved. One concern is the confusion it may cause to disadvantaged or immigrant voters who may not be able to understand the new voting system — outreach efforts would need to be implemented. Another problem is that in systems which limit the number of choices a voter may make — such as that of San Francisco, which limits its voters to their top three choices — they have no more say in the election even if they do have fourth or fifth choices, creating some concern regarding the constitutionality of some people losing their vote. This problem could easily be solved by adopting a system in which voters are allowed to rank all of the candidates instead of just the top three.

    RCV was nearly implemented at UCSD in 2004, until a flip-flopping senate voted to table the issue indefinitely last October, citing concerns about its cost.

    UCSD, whose students have been known to elect members of its A.S. Council with as little as 36 percent of the votes by plurality of less than 20 percent of the entire campus, has given up a golden opportunity to ensure that the council representatives have at least a majority when elected to office and to serve as a medium of change for the campus and the entire city of San Diego.

    The advantages of RCV significantly outweigh the fixable disadvantages. The A.S. Council should implement the measure and be a prototype for the rest of San Diego.

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