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Ranked-choice voting advocates urge San Diego City Council to put issue on ballot

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Jacob Aere
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KPBS
A ballot box is watched by two attendants at the San Diego Registrar of Voters, March 11, 2022.

Advocates for ranked-choice voting gathered outside City Hall Tuesday to urge the San Diego City Council to place a measure on the November general election ballot giving voters the option to choose the voting system.

Such a ballot initiative — if passed by voters — would change the election system to advance five candidates, instead of just two, to the general election. In general, voters would have the option to rank as many candidates as they like in order of preference. If a candidate receives more than half of the first choices in any race, that candidate wins, just like in a traditional election.

If there is no majority winner after counting first choices, the race would be decided by an "instant runoff." The candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and voters who picked that candidate as their first choice will have their votes count for their second choice. This process continues until there's a majority winner.

Ranked-choice voting has been adopted by several big cities including New York City, San Francisco and Santa Fe, and statewide in Alaska and Maine.

"Voters and candidates are tired of divisive and toxic campaigns," former San Diego City Councilman Mark Kersey said. "RCV incentivizes more civility in politics. Because candidates need to win second, third and fourth place votes in Ranked Choice Voting elections, candidates run more positive campaigns focused on the issues."

The City Council's Rules Committee will meet Wednesday to vote on moving the ballot initiative — as well as dozens of others — forward to the full council for consideration.

"Giving voters more choice in November elections is good for our democracy because it gives voters a more meaningful vote, it gives candidates a more civil pathway to elected office, it gives elected officials more flexibility to represent more people, and it gives everyone a stronger, healthier democracy," said Genevieve Jones-Wright, executive director of Community Advocates for Just and Moral Governance.

"Communities that use ranked-choice voting see more women and people of color run for office, and see more women and people of color elected," said Lori Thiel of the League of Women Voters. "With RCV, there's no fear of being a "spoiler" candidate and splitting the vote, so more diverse candidates run. And because of that, more voters see themselves reflected in their election choices and turn out to vote, she said.

If passed in San Diego, ranked-choice voting would take effect in 2024 following a voter outreach and education program.

Explore a comprehensive ballot guide, polling and ballot drop-off locators, live results on election night as well as reporting on candidates and issues.