Feeling the heat, Olague kills RCV repeal for now

Sup. Christina Olague delayed her closely watched vote on repealing ranked choice voting.

After reviving a controversial effort to repeal the city's ranked-choice voting (RCV) system and paying a political price for her shifting stands on the issue, Sup. Christina Olague today made the motion to send all three competing reform proposals back to the Board of Supervisors Rules Committee, effectively killing efforts to place them on the November ballot.

“The public would benefit from more public discussion on the issue,” Olague said, adding that she doesn't think the measures should be on the crowded fall ballot competing with other important priorities.

Olague had been torn between supporting the desires of Mayor Ed Lee (who appointed her to the seat) and downtown interests to repeal RCV and those of her longtime allies in the progressive community who sought to defend it from total repeal – and she hadn't been returning calls or indicating where she now stood before today's Board of Supervisors meeting.

But after hearing more than 30 minutes of impassioned public comments on both sides of the issue, she made the motion to end the controversy for now, which was unanimously approved by the board. Olague also addressed the heat she felt indirectly, saying RCV “should not be a litmus test for whether someone is progressive” and “sadly, the discussion had degenerated to be about personalities.”

Her colleagues seemed happy to be done with this fight for now as well. Sup. Mark Farrell, who sponsored the measure to repeal RCV for all citywide offices, said it would be a “huge mistake” to have competing voting system measures on the fall ballot. Olague had previously offered an alternative to repeal RCV for just the mayor's race, like Farrell's measure using a September primary election and November runoff. Board President David Chiu responded to the RCV repeal effort by proposing another alternative, that one using RCV in the November election but having a December runoff between the top two mayoral finishers.

Chiu said he was happy to delay his proposal, saying, “I have thought the system we have is working quite well.”


What else is it? It allows votes to coalesce around the candidate that the majority likes best, without the fear of vote splitting. One can argue that in a race like the Oakland mayor's, those votes would have coalesced anyway. But I think if we set aside our ideological blinders, we both know how the game really works. All the consultants have to do is get a guy like Perata into the runoff, and then the money advantage takes care of the rest. Smear your opponent with negative campaigning and depress their turnout, and call it democracy when the machine wins yet again. One of the best things about IRV is that consultants still haven't figured out how to properly manipulate the electorate to their own ends, and you get a truer sense of the electorate.

And no, it doesn't always benefit progressives. But that's OK. As a progressive myself, what's important to me is that we have the fairest, most democratic system possible, EVEN if "my candidate" doesn't always win. D10 was actually a superb example of how IRV *should* work. Under the old runoff system, you'd have had a white progressive facing off against an unknown Vietnamese lady who came out of the blue and no one had any idea what the hell she stood for at all. Now as much as I'd have liked to see Tony Kelly win, I have to admit that Malia Cohen is probably the most representative of that district of any of the top five or six finishers, both ideologically (certainly as far as the way she presented her campaign) and demographically. IRV prevented vote splitting and allowed the voters to naturally coalesce around the candidate who best fit them, and that's what it's all about.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 7:27 am

There has not been affirmative ideological vote transfer, only negative ideological vote transfer.

IRV was supposed to realize people's affirmative aspirations, not enable their negative fears.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 8:29 am

I would argue that the progressive vote in Oakland coalesced around one of two candidates that were both very acceptable to progressives. Kaplan and Quan ran campaigns that didn't attack each other, and progressives happily voted for both in one order or another. Were progressives more interested in affirmatively electing a progressive, or were they more interested in not electing Don Perata? Who knows? And really, who cares? My guess it was both, just like it is in every election. Elections are always about choices between different candidates, and people's reasoning for voting for them is multifaceted.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 6:36 pm

So far she has achieved nothing, crime has gotten worse, the city deficit has got worse and she only just survived a recall effort.

Hardly a poster child for IRV

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 11:08 pm

If it's indeed true that Oakland's crime rate has gone up, and I don't have any independent verification of that, I don't see how the mayor has much control over that.

As for the city deficit, there's something called The Great Recession going on right now. You may have read about it in an op-ed in the Wall Street Journal.

Come to think of it, that might affect crime rate too, you know.

Given the choices, Oakland could've done worse.

Posted by Greg on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 11:31 pm
Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 5:21 am

Again, who says?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 10:15 am

Maybe because the primary argument about IRV wasn't and shouldn't be about electing more progressives; it's that it's more democratic. More democratic outcomes is a progressive goal, isn't it?

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 10:07 am

It's a neat trick but she managed to do it. The moderates saw her co-sponsor one version, sole-sponsor a second and then go back on both without a coherent explanation.

And the conservatives know that they can make her their b*tch.

Somebody should get her out of there before she hurts herself.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 7:52 am

One solution to making SFBG comments readable and intelligible is to skip anything posted by Anon, Guest, Troll etc.

Posted by Patrick Monk RN on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 8:17 am

Good man Patrick, Censor those people and only publish what we want to hear!

Posted by Fy on the wall on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 6:20 pm

see censorship and suppression of free speech on a massive scale.

But he's just a sad whiney old man on the internet so it's OK.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 11:06 pm

Sitting here past midnight trolling the Guardian website

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 11:21 pm

Technically, it's not "censorship" on a privately owned website.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 10:00 am

for proving my point by once again showing your lack of comprehension. I did not advocate censorship, merely exercising one's right of free choice. As my old man used to say "Suffer fools gladly". Outa here.

Posted by Patrick Monk RN on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 10:16 am

Olague is not ready for prime time and is an Ed Lee stooge. Time to retire her and NOT give her eight years in office dancing to Ed and Willie's tunes.


Posted by Olague sucks on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 5:25 pm

I'm not sure how tabling RCV repeal shows Olague to be an Ed Lee stooge.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 10:17 am

Ah, another Kennedy-esque profile in courage.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 18, 2012 @ 5:41 pm

So called progresssives are against RCV because it involves focused debate with two candidates. They would rather try and slither in by some absurd math. That's the real truth.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 11:36 am

My take is that the professional progressives support IRV because IRV was a progressive project and therefore must be defended at any cost irrespective of any observations since it has been implemented.

If my thesis that the professional progressives are only paid because they can't/won't deliver on their politics, then it makes sense that they'd support a voting system that has relegated them to electoral obscurity.

Posted by marcos on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 12:34 pm

"So called progresssives are against RCV because it involves focused debate with two candidates."

That's for sure. I LIKE that there are lots of candidates with nuanced points of view. That makes elections a lot more like real life.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 19, 2012 @ 2:27 pm

Without Ranked Choice Voting, Don Perata would be Mayor of Oakland, sparing all of us the spectacle of Jean Quan in way over her head.

Posted by Guest on Jul. 20, 2012 @ 6:47 am

A crowded November ballot is exactly when you want to have a high-profile measure. If something is important, you want the most people to vote on it. November ballots in presidential-election years have the highest turnout. Conversely, lower-turnout elections typically favor whiter, more conservative voters.

So whose side are you on, Christina? And yes, you do have to choose. You may not like politics, but you chose to accept Mayor Lee's nomination, and you need to realize that you have very little credibility until you're actually elected. There's something extremely troubling about changing the rules of the election when YOU'VE NEVER BEEN ELECTED YOURSELF.

District 5 deserves a supervisor who understands and is responsive to her constituents. The current board of supervisors is dominated by moderate newbies who could not get elected in most districts. In other words, the minority is dictating the political future of this city while majority progressive candidates can't get their act together. It's time to stop playing nice with the mayor and his 1% allies on the BOS. This city doesn't need more rich people; we need to hold on to the residents we have, who are being priced out by all these ridiculous developments.

Posted by John on Aug. 05, 2012 @ 3:29 am

I know this comment thread is old but maybe there are still folks like me reading it because it is one of the few examples I could find of the debate over RCV / IRV. As regards the idea that RCV encourages a negative "anyone but" mentality I must disagree. I voted in the 2010 Oakland mayorial election, and I voted very positively for Rebecca Kaplan. I knew she wasn't likely to win, but it was great to be able to make her my top choice with no reserves. And yes, I was happy Perata didn't win. And I think that is also positive. When there are forces of manipulation / suppression operating in your home / city / world it is not 'negative' to work against them.
RCV is new in this country and even comparatively in SF. I think it is unfair to judge it based on our few examples of it playing out thus far. Yes, we can and should observe them and take note of what happened, but this experiment has just begun, and it's implications are huge.
Imagine the U.S. having a multi-party system. It is not impossible and it begins with RCV. We're made to believe we have no choice but to elect those who, as much as they promise, in policy obviously do not represent the interest of common people. We're given complex reasoning why corporate profits and "economic growth" are more important than people being able to afford homes, food and education. It's bullsh#t. And it will continue unless the people sue to change it.
The people of the US and the world deserve sane and just governmental bodies. I believe it is possible. I hope others do as well.

Posted by Matt on Sep. 24, 2012 @ 12:39 pm