Many people dropped off their ballots at the country Registrar of Voters office. Photo by Chris Stone
Election-day ballot drop-off at the Registrar of Voters office. Photo by Chris Stone

The More Choice San Diego coalition has filed an initiative with the city of San Diego that makes democracy fair, easy, and fun. 

This simple change to our election process, known as ranked choice voting, would create an easy-to-use system that saves money and improves voter turnout across the board while leading to the election of more women and people of color, creating a more inclusive democracy. Those are the results in cities where this election reform has already been adopted.

The More Choice San Diego initiative would advance five candidates, instead of just two, to the general election. It also allows voters the option to rank as many candidates as they like in order of preference: one, two, three, and so forth.

If a candidate receives more than half of the first choices in any race, that candidate wins, just like in a traditional election.

However, if there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race is decided by an “instant runoff.” The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as their first choice will have their votes count for their second choice. This process continues until there’s a majority winner or a candidate won with more than half of the vote.

Ranked choice voting has been adopted by several major cities, including New York City, San Francisco and Santa Fe, and statewide in Alaska and Maine.

While ranked choice voting increases voter turnout overall, the increase in turnout among African Americans, Latinos, and Asians voters is higher than turnout among the general electorate. 

This is simple: When there are more candidates on the ballot who speak to voters of color and who voters of color trust, voters have more reason to vote. In New York City, for example, voter turnout in diverse communities soared under ranked choice voting.

The More Choice San Diego initiative is the product of consensus among dozens of local organizations, hundreds of community leaders, and stakeholders who represent a wide spectrum of political perspectives.

That’s because, believe it or not, elections can bring us together.

Here’s why we’re supporting More Choice San Diego:

  • Voters find ranked choice voting simple, fair, and easy. By giving voters the opportunity to vote for a candidate they like the most, without the worry of electing a candidate they see as the lesser of two evils, voters are more satisfied with the democratic process and even commit less ballot errors, studies have shown.
  • This incentivizes more civility in politics. Voters and candidates are tired of divisive and toxic campaigns. Because candidates need to win second, third, and fourth place votes in ranked choice voting elections, candidates run more positive campaigns focused on the issues.
  • From Maine to Alaska and dozens of municipalities in-between, voters from all ideologies, party affiliations, and economic status are supporting ranked choice voting as a reform that gives voters more meaningful choices in the General Election, when most voters vote. The composition and continued growth of the coalition itself is proof: San Diego can bring people together to produce a better democracy.
  • The More Choice San Diego initiative is expected to save San Diego taxpayers about $1 million every single election cycle because the vast majority of primary elections in San Diego will be eliminated — because if 5 or fewer candidates run for an office, they advance automatically to the general election.

At a time when national and statewide politics have never been more divisive, members of the San Diego More Choice coalition have been working to create this new initiative and rally support for something we can all agree on. Our growing coalition includes Alliance San Diego, League of Women Voters of San Diego, FairVote, Independent Voter Project, Veterans for Political Innovation, Represent Women, and others.

Giving voters more choice in November elections is good for democracy because it gives voters a more meaningful vote, it gives candidates a more civil pathway to elected office, it gives elected officials more flexibility to represent more people, and it gives everyone a stronger, healthier democracy.

In order to move this initiative forward, we need your support. The More Choice San Diego ballot measure will be considered by the Rules Committee April 20th and if it gets the green light it will then be considered by the full City Council for placement on the November ballot.

We hope you join our growing coalition! To do so, or to learn more, please visit MoreChoiceSD.org. San Diego can be at the forefront of a better democracy. That’s good for all of us.

Ismahan Abdullahi is executive eirector of the Muslim American Society-Public Affairs and Civic Engagement San Diego. Jeff Marston is a board member for the Independent Voter Project. Victoria Barba is Outreach Coordinator for More Choice San Diego.