City of Davis considers switch to Choice Voting in elections
Voting system allows for ranking of candidates in order of preference

By Courtney Burks
Published October 18th 2005 in The California Aggie
The system of Choice Voting could one day be the new election method for selecting Davis’ elected officials.

A different method of electing local government officials into their respective positions compared to the traditional ballot, Choice Voting has been an issue frequently brought up to the city council. With the upcoming city and state elections on Nov. 8, many citizens are wondering whether Davis will adopt this unconventional voting practice.

What starts as a simple process for the voter later becomes a more technical and mathematical approach in order to determine the candidates elected into office. When voters approach the polls, computers allow them to rank running candidates in order of preference.

If the voter is uninterested in a certain candidate, Choice Voting allows them to choose only their ideal official and rank them in order of preference, something the current voting system does not allow for.

After the total votes have been tallied, the procedure begins. The number needed to win a seat is calculated by dividing the total votes by the number of seats possible, plus one. Then, the number one is added to that total and each candidate who receives that amount of first-choice votes is automatically elected.

The process is repeated to determine the place of all officials, as a fraction of each top-ranked candidate’s vote is then transferred to the voter’s second choice. The process then repeats down the line.

Greg Russell, campaign coordinator for Choice Voting, a city-based group that would like to see the method put into use, said several Davis residents feel this system of election would be beneficial for two main reasons, but also many woman and minority candidates have a better chance of getting elected into office.

“People will vote honestly for the candidate closest to their preference,” Russell said. “[And] it ensures proportional representation.”

UC Davis currently uses Choice Voting in student elections and the system is believed to benefit independent candidates, such as ASUCD Senator Keith Shively. Shively personally prefers more traditional methods of voting, but indeed is in favor of representation.

“Although Choice Voting has no bearing on whether or not I was going to run for office, I am sure it helped me attain my seat,” Shively said.

  City councilmember Stephen Souza said an appointed governance task force was issued in May 2005 and recommended Choice Voting to be installed in Davis. Nothing regarding the method will go into effect for elections in the foreseeable future. The city council does, however, have the ability to determine the use of Choice Voting at some point.

“I would like to see a developed timeline with an advisory vote on the ballot in June 2006,” Souza said. “It then wouldn’t be in effect until June 2008 when Ruth Asmundson and Ted Puntillo are up for re-election.”

While no immediate decisions will be made to implement the system of Choice Voting into city elections, residents of Davis will become more informed of its capabilities up through Nov. 8 and well into the new year.

As there are mixed feelings among citizens, if implemented, Choice Voting will serve as a forum for voters of all preferences to collaborate in learning its techniques.

 “[If it is realized], the idea of Choice Voting will grow on the citizens of this cutting-edge city,” Shively said.