Both the city of Berkeley and the ASUC use ranked-choice voting in their elections, removing the need for runoff elections and bringing benefits and drawbacks to the electoral process.
Voters are allowed to vote for multiple candidates on a ballot in a ranked order, which eliminates the need for runoff elections. The ranked candidates are voted for in order of preference, according to the city of Berkeley website.
“It also gives voters more choice in their vote, allowing them to vote for multiple candidates,” said Stefan Elgstrand, Mayor Jesse Arreguín’s spokesperson, in an email.
Berkeley first used this system in November 2010 and is one of three cities in Alameda County using this method, according to Elgstrand. He added that mayoral, City Council and city auditor elections are voted for through ranked choices and voters can rank up to three candidates in order of preference in these specific elections.
ASUC elections use ranked-choice voting as well. ASUC Elections Council chair James Weichert said there are two different types of ranked-choice voting used in ASUC elections: instant runoff voting for the executive positions and single transferable voting for senate seats.
Instant runoff voting is similar to voting in the city of Berkeley in that voters list their preferences in order for each position, according to Weichert. The candidate with the least amount of votes in the first round of tabulation is eliminated, and then the next round will tally the second preferences of the people who voted for the eliminated candidate to the remaining candidates. This process moves forward until there are two candidates in the running and one candidate has the majority of votes.
Single transferable voting is specifically used in senate races in which there are groupings based on community or party lines. The proportion of votes the grouping gets in the election will be reflected in the number of senate seats it acquires, according to Weichert.
Weichert added that the intent behind this form of voting is to properly represent the student body on campus.
“At the end of the day, every student’s vote is counted towards someone who is elected to the senate,” Weichert said.
Elgstrand and Weichert said they both agree ranked-choice voting is an efficient system. This system eliminates the need to have a runoff election, which can be costly and has lower voter turnout, according to Elgstrand. Weichert, however, also mentioned drawbacks.
Weichert said there is a learning curve when trying to adopt this system and apply it to elections on campus. He added that listing preferences for a large number of candidates can be an arduous process.
The system is meant to increase representation and equity within elections, according to Weichert. Elgstrand highlighted that candidates may form alliances to increase their preference rank, encouraging candidates to work together.
“There are no votes that are wasted, and that’s really important in ensuring representation, equity and fairness,” Weichert said.