Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Op-ed in Oakland Tribune/Contra Costa Times and question on the ranked choice recall

Here's my op-ed on the Quan recall. I think one of the big questions that is cropping up in regards to a Quan recall is whether, if Quan is removed, the city would be allowed to use its ranked choice/instant runoff voting (explanation here) or would instead have to use the regular First Past the Post system.

First a little background:
In Quan's victory, the first election to use ranked choice in Oakland, she finished second in the first round (with less than 25% of the vote), over nine points behind the leader, Don Perata. She only took the lead on the last distribution of votes, and won the race by less than 51-49%.

Oakland's recall law is very simple --- "exercised in the manner prescribed by general law of the State." When Oakland adopted the ranked choice system, they did not change their recall law. Of course, the state does not have ranked choice voting. So it could very well be that ranked choice will not be used in a recall.

There's another basic point here that might seriously work against Quan. If Quan ran in Arizona or other states that have all candidate that have the recall operate as a new election, she could triumph in the same manner as before. But California's recall law first has a vote on whether or not to remove the official, and then has (at the same time) a replacement vote (where the recalled official is not allowed to be a candidate). Quan would have to get an absolute majority of voters to support her to win the recall vote. Since she got less than 25% of first time voters last time, she might be facing a serious hill.

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