Leaders Disagree that New Voting System in S.F. Discriminates
by Kai Lui
Chinese community leaders expressed their
disagreement over recent comments made by David Lee, the executive
director of the Chinese American Voter Education Committee, who
blasted the city's new instant run off system claiming that it
heavily discriminates against Chinese voters.
Yvonne Lee, a former U.S. civil rights commissioner said that the
new "Ranked Choice Voting" system that eliminates
traditional run off races was implemented only once and definitive
conclusions cannot be drawn based on the one time experience.
"Saying that the new system is anti-Chinese only represents
David Lee's personal view. It is irresponsible and can be
misleading," she said.
Yvonne Lee said there were many reasons why Chinese candidates, as
many as six who vied for seats on the city's Board of Supervisors,
did not win. If a traditional runoff system was held, the result
would be the same, she said. She used the example of Chinese
American Mabel Teng's loss in a past runoff election for a Board
seat. She lost because Chinese voters in general did not participate
in the separate December runoff election, she said. Long-time voters
are the ones that typically come out for run-off elections. Yvonne
Lee believes the new instant runoff method is more advantageous for
the Chinese in the city.
In response to David Lee's remarks that the Ranked Choice Voting
system gives an advantage to incumbents who have greater name
recognition, Yvonne Lee said that incumbent always has more
advantages, whether on the federal level or on the state level. She
said the main determinant for a candidate to win an election depends
on how he or she campaigning. She believes that the key to success
of the new election mechanism lies in enhancing voter education. She
does not believe this is the right time to make a negative
conclusion about the system.
Ling Chi Wang, ethnic studies professor at the University of
California at Berkeley, said that David Lee's comments have no
evidence to support them. He said that it is improper for him to mix
different information together. "Five years ago there were
three Chinese American supervisors, now there is only one. This has
nothing to do with instant runoff. There is no evidence indicating
that the ranked-choice system is a failure."
Wang believes that there is nothing wrong with the instant runoff
system and that the Chinese-language media covered the system and
how it works extensively before the election: "Before the
election, the Chinese language newspapers had extensive reports, in
successive articles, educating readers on how to vote," said
Wang. He added that assertions that the new system is
disadvantageous to the Chinese community is groundless.