IN 2006, 69 percent of Oakland voters chose Instant Runoff Voting.
IRV eliminates costly runoffs and increases voter turnout — local elections are combined with fall state and federal races, when turnout is nearly 60 percent higher than in June, and it helps challengers running against incumbents or ex-officials with name recognition and ready access to funds.
San Francisco held its sixth IRV election using equipment and systems identical to those Alameda County will use. Both counties requested permission from California Secretary of State Debra Bowen for IRV voting equipment in June; San Francisco received state approval Aug. 4, but Alameda is still waiting. The secretary's office has repeatedly assured Alameda County that IRV certification is coming — what explains the delay? Some people suspect back channel politicking is involved.
Make no mistake about it, IRV is a game changer and the politicians know it. Who is trying to keep the old game?
In 2007, Don Perata, a mayoral candidate for 2010, wrote Mayor Ron Dellums asking that IRV not be implemented. Recently, Perata wrote to the county administrator and registrar of voters citing concerns about the ability of the voter to understand the IRV process.
The facts do not support these concerns. San Francisco has a history of using IRV; San Francisco State University Public Policy Institute has surveyed San Francisco, showing voters' are comfortable with the system. Nearly 90 percent of San Franciscans said that they understood IRV and favored it over the old system 3 to 1. Those results cut across all demographic lines.
Oakland Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente also has written to Bowen expressing concerns about voter registration, education and costs under IRV. But if the councilman is sincerely interested in increasing turnout, he would support IRV, since studies from San Francisco document huge voter turnout increases, especially in heavily minority neighborhoods.
Having won his last election with only 3,000-plus votes, the lowest among council members, De La Fuente should join with the many supporters of IRV in Oakland, such as Congresswoman Barbara Lee, Alameda County Supervisor Keith Carson, state Assemblyman Sandre Swanson and two dozen organizations in preparing voters for IRV — because it is in the best interests of the people.
Voter education will add costs for the first IRV election. But Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave McDonald has determined that costs will decrease substantially as we permanently eliminate low-turnout June elections.
During the 2006 IRV campaign, we made agreements with supporters in various Oakland communities that they would assist us by holding voter education in their areas and organizations. The League of Women Voters and other groups also stand ready to help with voter education and outreach. The registrar plans mailings, videos, public service announcements and more.
As leaders of the original Measure O campaign, we worked hard to offer the voters real election reform and they liked it. Back channeling now to thwart the will of the voters is undemocratic, something all residents should be outraged about.
By trying to manipulate the rules that will affect his election, perhaps Perata is giving us the first inkling of how he would like to run our city.
The voters of Oakland and Berkeley have been waiting years for this implementation. Let's put a stop to self-serving politicians trying to undermine the will of the voters.
Judy Cox and Anne Spanier are the co-founders of the IRV effort, including the campaign in 2006 and subsequent implementation work both in 2008 and currently.