'Yes' to Measure O, instant runoff voting

By Editorial Board
Published October 25th 2006 in Oakland Tribune

On Nov. 7, Oakland residents will get the chance to vote on a measure that will save the city more than $400,000 every two years, probably increase voter turnout and reduce the time candidates can go negative on each other.

For us, deciding to endorse Measure O was as simple as counting 1-2-3.

If approved, the measure would amend the City Charter to let voters rank candidates in order of their preference during November general elections, a process known as instant runoff voting.

In allowing local candidates to skip primaries, Measure O essentially eliminates the need for costly runoff elections between politicians who couldnít muster 50 percent-plus-one votes to win outright.

Under Measure O, voters would rank candidates first, second, third and so on. In cases where no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. That candidateís votes then would be transferred to the voterís second choice and the ballot would be retabulated. The process continues until a candidate wins more than 50 percent of the votes.

Instant runoff voting in Oakland would begin as soon as Alameda County election officials install new voting machines capable of ranking candidates, possibly as early as November 2008. Critics of Measure O argue that instant runoff voting would confuse many people and disenfranchise minority voters. Such thinking implies some people and minorities arenít intelligent or adaptable enough to understand a different way of voting. That is ridiculous.

The concept of ranking candidates is no more difficult than learning how to use different voting machines every few elections. Certainly, some of the money saved -Ė City Auditor Roland Smith estimates a June primary costs the city $464,000 -Ė could be spent to educate the public about the change.

When instant runoff voting was used in the November 2004 municipal elections in San Francisco, we didnít hear complaints of voters being disenfranchised.

Any means used to increase voter turnout while at the same time saving money should be given a shot. We believe Measure O is a winner.