Legislation that would have allowed all cities in California to use ranked-choice voting, the system in San Francisco and three other Bay Area communities that lets voters rank candidates by preference and decide an election in a single round of ballots, has been vetoed by Gov. Jerry Brown. Ranked-choice, also known as instant-runoff voting, gives voters the option of choosing multiple candidates in order of preference. After the ballots are first counted, the candidate with the fewest top-rank votes is eliminated and the next choices of that candidate’s supporters are apportioned among the remaining candidates. The process continues until one candidate gets a majority.
While the system can sidetrack a leading candidate who lacks second-choice votes, it also encourages voters to support the candidate they prefer, rather than a less-favored rival who has a better chance of winning. The system is less expensive for cities than the traditional primary and runoff elections.
California law allows the state’s 121 charter cities to adopt the ranked-choice system if their voters approve it. Only four have done so — San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and San Leandro — while the others hold two-round elections for local offices.
The 361 “general law” cities, those without self-governing charters, hold single-round elections in which the top vote-getter is declared the winner, needing only a plurality of the voters rather than a majority. That category includes such Bay Area communities as Antioch, Brisbane, Concord, Daly City, Menlo Park and Walnut Creek.