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City Council Committee to Consider Ranked-Choice Voting Measure

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A polling place in San Diego County. Photo by Chris Stone

A San Diego City Council committee will consider Wednesday a measure that would allow voters to rank their top four choices for a public office to produce a “higher quality” election outcome.

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Under the plan, which if approved by the council would be presented to voters in November in the form of a ballot measure, the top four candidates in a normal primary election would advance to a general election for ranking by voters.

Chad Peace, a lawyer and political consultant who led the Measure K effort to require runoffs in all city elections, said ranked voting preserves “voices that are squeezed out of the elections process” and would result in “higher quality leadership.”

For example, if ranked choice-voting was being used this year, the candidates for Mayor in November would be the existing top two — Assemblyman Todd Gloria and City Councilwoman Barbara Bry — plus City Councilman Scott Sherman and community leader Tasha Williamson. Voters would rank those four in November.

“We know any system is going to be gamed. But under a top four we believe it would be significantly harder to game,” said Peace, whose father Steve Peace served for 20 years in the California Legislature.

Ranked-choice voting is not a new idea. California cities as diverse as Berkeley, Oakland and San Francisco has been using the system, as has the state of Maine.

The ranking process works like this:

  • If a candidate wins a majority among the first-choice votes, that candidate is the winner.
  • If not, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. The second choices from those ballots are then added to the remaining candidates.
  • The process continues until one candidate receives a majority of the final votes.

Peace said San Diego’s voting system can accommodate ranked choice with just an inexpensive software update.

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The council’s Rules Committee has already voted once in favor of the plan and is holding its second vote on Wednesday. The meeting begins at 2 p.m.

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