Last year, I observed the Instant Runoff Voting [IRV] election for Mayor of Oakland closely. I studied the tactics of the candidates and the results. Oakland Mayor Jean Quan achieved something slow, steady and simple.
In addition to seeking supporters for her campaign outright, Mayor Quan created a coalition of interests for whom another primary candidate was their first choice. Through sound campaigning she convinced this coalition of disparate interests to select her second on their ballots.
Because of a lack of effort by the media and the City to properly explain IRV in advance of the election, many people ignorant of the math or the method never understood it and felt cheated. For these, and others, the idea that “everybody’s number two” won the election persisted. It is imperative we explain what IRV is and why it’s better democracy.
In fact, if traditional voting had occurred and a runoff had been held between Jean Quan and her nearest opponent Don Perata, it would have been a six-week long, expensive affair. Likely, Perata would have outspent Quan even as the supporters of Rebecca Kaplan, Joe Tuman and other candidates tilted to Mayor Quan. That is what IRV showed us: it used basic, smart, weighted statistics to allow the right decision to happen on election day, preventing the expense to the City of a second election and preventing the purchasing of such a runoff by monied interests.
Mayor Quan won because she covered more ground and was more present to more people than any of the other candidates and it paid off in a statistical advantage. That’s good democracy.
The opponents of IRV struggle to rename it Ranked Choice Voting because it implies something that smells bad.
The loudest in opposition to IRV are:
1. people who think the voters are too stupid to know how to use it and
2. those whose interest it threatens, namely big parties, monied candidates and
3. those who use the traditional way of doing things: buying the election.
In fact, IRV is an excellent tool because
1. it makes candidates seek alliance and coalition-building tactics
2. it makes voters learn more about more candidates and take greater responsibility for their vote.
3. it aids candidates interested in civic leadership but without the finances to use media by giving them a means to recognition
4. it eliminates the need for expensive runoff campaigns
5. the nature of the process reveals which candidate works best with others at large.
Instant Runoff Voting is complicated and somewhat hard to explain. What our politicians ought to be doing is explaining it in clear terms and helping voters use it to elect our leadership. Instead we see them resisting what threatens them.
My strategy is somewhat different. I believe I’m the best candidate to run the City. I hope you will gather this to be true by election day and vote for me first, but if you don’t, I hope you will see that it only makes sense to include me as a reformist, by voting for me second or third on your ballot. You can trust my promises, which are unique among legitimate candidates.
I will slash the Mayor’s salary first and then ask City employees to help me to do the same before making cuts. I will create a Giveback Fund to encourage the San Francisco value of sharing and community. I will audit and evaluate every department before raising any new revenue from taxation and eliminate waste that has run rampant. I will make the hard calls on pensions and benefits and help come up with creative means to generate revenue to avoid harsh austerity measures.
It’s in our best interest to elect me because I am not a politician. Rather, I’m a regular citizen concerned about waste, solvency and rampant and unchecked growth. I will function transparently and without attachment to special interests.
I can creatively cut costs, reduce waste and lead us to a more efficient San Francisco in which we pay less for a better quality of life. You can trust me to analyze and reform our City’s broken and corrupt system transparently, to save the City money doing it, and to create solvency and a surplus economy from the myriad wonderfulness of our City’s inherently talented and multilingual community.
As a one-time, reform candidate, Karthik Rajan is a smart second or third choice for voters and a great first choice to be the next Mayor of San Francisco.