Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Ignacio Is Trying to Kill Ranked Choice Voting

By Robert Gammon
Tue, Jan 5, 2010 at 11:25 AM

Oakland Vice Mayor Ignacio De La Fuente is making an eleventh-hour attempt to block ranked choice voting for this year’s election and thereby thwart the will of a majority of Oakland voters. “I’m going to try to kill it,” De La Fuente told the Trib. De La Fuente also is soliciting help from various nonprofit groups around the city to stop ranked choice voting, also known as instant runoff voting.

In a letter being circulated by council policy staffer and likely council candidate Libby Schaaf, De La Fuente is asking the groups to oppose the new voting system for this year on the claim that implementing it will harm the city’s budget, and thus force the council to cut funds for vital city services. The city council is scheduled to take up the issue tonight.

As we noted yesterday, a new report by City Attorney John Russo estimates that ranked choice voting may cost the city about $947,000 this year in start-up and voter-education costs. But the city also will save about $800,000 if it does not hold a June election. In other words, the new system may cost the city about $147,000 next year, and then Oakland would save in the future because it won’t need to hold June elections. Ranked choice voting allows for just one election in November and eliminates the need for a June primary.

De La Fuente told the Trib that he wants to stop the new voting system because of the costs. But there’s no secret that his close friend and ally, ex-state state Senator Don Perata, also would benefit from blocking ranked choice voting in this year’s mayoral race. Perata, who also wants to stop the new format, would be at advantage with the old system of two elections because of his name recognition and fund-raising prowess. By contrast, Perata’s main opponent, Councilwoman Jean Quan, likely would do better with just one election because it would give people more time to get to know her and she would only have to raise money for one campaign.

It’s also unclear whether De La Fuente has the votes to stop ranked choice voting. Last month, he told the Express that he believed the council was going to approve it tonight. There are four solid votes on the eight-member council for the new format — Quan, Nancy Nadel, Pat Kernighan, and Rebecca Kaplan. Oakland voters approved ranked choice voting in 2006 with 69 percent of the vote. Last month, Russo said that the voters' mandate meant that the council had no choice but to use the new system this year.

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