HOW RCV COULD HELP STAROSCIAKRanked Choice Voting is coming to San Leandro this November, but it's already changed the way Oscar voters determine their Best Picture and the surprise winner Sunday night might be a guide to what happens in the race for mayor.
After the normally staid Academy Awards doubled the numbers of nominees for its top prize from 5 to 10 last year, it also added a new wrinkle in how it determines a winner that is the exact voting system San Leandro voters will use in this year's elections for mayor and city council. Voters whether they are deciding the cinematic superiority of "Avatar" over the "The Hurt Locker" or Mayor Tony Santos' leadership over Councilwoman Joyce Starosciak will rank their preferences until one of the choices garners a majority of the vote.
Ranked Choice Voting rewards a consensus, which in the world of the Oscars, is trending towards the underdog film, "The Hurt Locker," about a band of bomb-diffusing soldiers in Iraq. This may be surprising since nearly everyone has seen "Avatar" and gush over its stunning moviemaking, but "The Hurt Locker" is currently the odds-on-favorite to win.
The New Yorker's Henrik Hertzberg wrote last month about the possible upset of "Avatar" due to Ranked Choice voting:
This scheme, known as preference voting or instant-runoff voting, doesn’t necessarily get you the movie (or the candidate) with the most committed supporters, but it does get you a winner that a majority can at least countenance. It favors consensus. Now here’s why it may also favor “The Hurt Locker.”An article in the USA Today adds, "Though the new system ensures some consensus, it raises the possibility that a movie with more No. 2 and No. 3 votes could beat the film with the most first-place ballots" Meaning, a film like "The Hurt Locker" or "Inglourious Basterds" could surprise movie lovers. Eschewing flying blue aliens and revenge-seeking Jews, a candidate with fewer first-place could become mayor in San Leandro this year and that person may be Vice Mayor Starosciak.
As it stands, the incumbent Santos is without a doubt the frontrunner. Most would place Starosciak second and former school board trustee Stephen Cassidy third. Depending on who you talk to, Santos will either win easily with a majority of the votes even before the mechanism of Ranked Choice Voting begins or the three candidates will nearly split the first place votes by a third with Santos narrowly leading. There is a wide spread there, but here is the likely breakdown past voter's first preference.
It is a good assumption supporters of Cassidy will not rank Santos second on their ballots. There's quite a bit of bad blood that flows both ways, but it is more evident from Cassidy supporters than the other way around. Santos supporters would likely vote the current consensus for the mayor, Starosciak and Cassidy, 1-2-3. Since many of the mayor's supporters are also shared with the vice mayor, they may be inclined to feel comfortable with Starosciak as similar to Santos. Where does that leave Starosciak, then? Probably piling up a large number of second-place votes.
Noted San Francisco State Political Science Prof. Rich DeLeon said in The Citizen, his research regarding Ranked Choice Voting in San Francisco, did not uncover a race that was overturned by a candidate who upset the apple cart. The voting system merely saved money and gave more people a chance to run and to participate. Proponenets of Ranked Choice voting, when they lobbied the city last year, did not dwell on this possibility of an upset ocuring because of the system. Nevertheless, there is a chance a movie nobody has heard of will win Best Picture and a candidate could become the mayor of San Leandro with more second-place votes than first-place votes and that would make for a good movie.
-STEVEN TAVARESJOIN THE REVOLUTION! for more news, go to twitter.com/eastbaycitizen