City Council discusses possible adoption of Choice Voting
Follow-up meeting to be held May 12

Published April 7th 2005 in The California Aggie

Looking to replace its current plurality elections, Davis could join San Francisco and Berkeley in implementing Choice Voting as its method of electing government officials.

At its Tuesday meeting, Davis city councilmembers held a workshop with the Governance Task Force to discuss their final recommendations for implementing Choice Voting within the city, among other recommendations.

No decisions were made, but the city will hold another meeting on May 12 to continue its discussion of the recommendations.

Task Force Chairman Michael Levy informed councilmembers of the advantages of the new system. "Choice Voting will encourage candidates who want to appeal to a broader base of people," Levy said. "It divides up representation and creates a more proportional outcome."

Councilmembers expressed several concerns about the new method including whether the system will help or harm minorities during elections.

"With the current system, the minority [political party] can be excluded," Levy said. "Choice Voting guarantees that minorities are represented but that they do not have complete control."

Task Force Vice Chairman Gerald Adler said Choice Voting would ensure a vast majority of voters will have at least one representative elected that they support.

This is not always the case with the current system, Adler added.

Councilmember Stephen Souza also expressed his concern, asking whether the new system would encourage those who do not believe their vote counts to participate in the election process.

Souza questioned if the new system would appeal to younger voters who are often reluctant to contribute to elections.

Councilmembers were worried about the educational process that would be necessary within the city if Choice Voting is approved.

A public education campaign was suggested to help inform Davis residents of the new method's mechanics. "People have a natural resistance to change," councilmember Ted Puntillo said. "We will have to do a real heavy educational program if this is going to work."

Councilmember Don Saylor added that reliability in the system is crucial to the success of the new method. "Public education must be deep and broad," Saylor said. "We have a bright population that must have confidence in the system if it is going to be used correctly."

The Task Force also discussed the possibility of expanding the council from five members to seven members.

Councilmembers, particularly Mayor Pro Tempore Sue Greenwald, expressed concerns over this, mentioning that additional councilmembers would require additional time and money.

The task force also addressed the issue of district elections, which they found problematic, and therefore opted for Choice Voting.

Greenwald supported district elections but agreed that Choice Voting was also a favorable alternative. "If possible I would like to see district elections with Choice Voting," Greenwald said. "I think that we need district elections because the city has gotten so big that it is virtually impossible to raise money and run a competitive campaign."

Greenwald said she hopes that if district elections were implemented, any citizen could run a competitive campaign without the backing of "developers and big money."

The task force also suggested two ways in which the mayor of the city could be selected; either by current councilmembers or by the voters.

Citizens for Representation Co-Founder Chris Jerdonek attended the meeting and was pleased with the council's discussion of choice voting. "The meeting couldn't have gone any better," Jerdonek said. "The council was very open and asked all the right questions."