Study Shows SM Residents "Undervoting"
Published June 1st 2004 in Santa Monica Mirror
Santa Monica Ranked Voting has released a study of recent City Council elections, which shows that, in the 2000 election, over 40% of the people who showed up at the polls did not cast all of the votes that were allotted to them.

Under Santa Monica’s current election system, a strong preference for one candidate may cause a voter to cast fewer than his allotted votes, since a vote for any of the other candidates might help defeat his favorite.
A study of vote counts in Santa Monica’s three most recent elections reveals that Santa Monica voters consistently undervote. In 2000, the average voter cast less than three of his four allotted votes. In all three elections, over 35% of voters undervoted.
“Although many voters recognize that the current system leads to strategic voting, we think that Santa Monicans will be surprised when they learn how widespread this problem really is,” said Julie Walters, a co-founder of Santa Monica Ranked Voting. “When over a third of Santa Monicans are not fully utilizing their votes, there is a serious flaw in the system.”
Santa Monica Ranked Voting was formed to build support for Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) and Choice Voting, two voting systems that address this and other problems in the current system.
Both IRV and Choice Voting allow voters to rank their choices for each seats. Choice Voting is designed for multi-seat elections, such as those Santa Monica holds every two years, while IRV is designed for filling a single seat, such as the 1999 special election that was held to fill a newly vacant seat on the Council. When a voter ranks his first, second and third choices, if his first choice is not elected, his vote goes to his second choice and so on, until someone is elected.
Santa Monica has flirted with Choice Voting and IRV, but never adopted either system. A 1992 city Charter Review Commission recommended Choice Voting for Santa Monica’s regular elections. The Santa Monica League of Women Voters has expressed support for the “consideration of alternative voting systems in Santa Monica elections with a special emphasis on … Choice Voting.” Councilmember Mike Feinstein and Mayor Pro Tem Kevin McKeown have both supported IRV and Choice Voting.