Measure O is good for Oakland

By Nancy J. Nadel
Published November 1st 2006 in Bay Area BusinessWoman
On November 7, Oaklanders will have an opportunity to vote on Measure O which will greatly improve elections by saving taxpayers up to a half -million tax dollars per election cycle, improving the quality of political campaigns, and by holding elections when turn-out is greatest.

The problem with our elections is that most Oakland officeholders are elected in the June primary when only a third of eligible voters cast ballots. Then only a small electorate decides the winners for everyone else. Voter turnout in November elections is much higher, especially for communities of color, where turnout is twice as high.

For those races that require both a June election and a November runoff, administering two elections is expensive. The City Auditor has estimated that local June elections cost taxpayers nearly a $1 half-million dollars per year — money that could be better spent on other city services.

The solution? Measure O.

Measure O implements an innovative method called Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) to achieve the worthy goal of electing winners who have majority support in a single November election.

Here’s how it works: Voters indicate their favorite candidate, just like they do now, but at the same time they also rank their runoff choices, 1, 2, 3 on the ballot. If a candidate receives a majority of first rankings, she, of course, wins. But if no candidate has a majority of first rankings, the second and third rankings are used to determine the majority winner, instantly eliminating the need for a separate June election.

By eliminating low-turnout June elections, Oakland will elect officeholders who win a popular majority in November and ensure that more voters have a say in electing local leaders. Oakland taxpayers will also save the cost of a second election.

San Francisco has held two elections using IRV. Three exit polls were conducted showing voters overwhelmingly liked it — with a whopping 87 percent of all ethnic and racial groups responding that they were able to understand the process. In the 2005 election, the parts of San Francisco with the highest concentrations of people of color saw the greatest boost in voter turnout — four times higher in some neighborhoods.

Measure O has broad support from local women politicians and organizations, such as the League of Women Voters, National Women’s Political Caucus, and Black Women Organized for Political Action. I hope you will join me in voting “Yes” on Measure O.

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