“The entire race has now been thrown up in the air, as the new results go against the certified results”
A school board race in Oakland, California, is a total mess due to an error in the confusing process of ranked-choice voting.
The person everyone thought came in third ended up with the most votes. But the declared winner refuses to concede, and the election has already been certified.
This means that it would take a judge to overturn the results. What a nightmare.
A reader named Spencer Klein, who maintains a blog called Neutrino Hunting in Antarctica, wrote about it:
The complete debacle in the recent (Nov. 8th, 2022) election for the Oakland School Board (OSB) led me to think more about elections. For those of you who are from outside the San Francisco Bay Area, after tabulating and announcing the election results, the Alameda County registrar found an error in how ballots were counting, and On Dec. 28th announced a new top vote-getter, less than two weeks before inauguration day.
Oakland is a city of about 440,000 people just south of Berkeley (where I live). The OSB is important, since Oakland schools are facing many problems, including declining enrollment, educational recovery from Covid closures, and financial problems. The OSB election used rank choice voting, so counting took time; the results were announced by early December. Nick Resnick won in District 5. This result was duly certified.
Then, on December 28th, the registrar dropped a bombshell. There was a mistake in tabulating ranked choice votes, and a different candidate, Mike Hutchinson, was the actual top vote getter.
Ranked choice voting sounds horrible.
The California Globe has more on this:
Alameda County Registrar of Voters Announces Counting Error For Oakland School Board Race
The Alameda County Registrar of Voters announced on Thursday that the ranked-choice voting system used by the County was not properly configured for the Fourth District Oakland Unified School District Board race in November, resulting in a new winner for the race and increased doubts over the county’s voting method.
In a statement, the Alameda County Registrar of Voters noted that “The ROV learned that its RCV tally system was not configured properly for the November 2022 General Election. It should have been configured to advance ballots to the next ranking immediately when no candidate was selected for a particular round. This means that if no candidate was selected in the first round on the ballot, then the second-round ranking would count as the first-round ranking, the third-round ranking would count as the second round ranking, and so on…
The entire race has now been thrown up in the air, as the new results go against the certified results, with candidates being told now that a judge would have to overturn the certified results in order to have the now-winning candidate be certified instead.
“Without being cynical, I now believe in holiday miracles. So it was very shocking to wake up this morning and receive a phone call at 10:30 a.m. from the Alameda County head of elections informing me that I had actually won the election,” said Hutchinson.
People are now questioning the city’s mayoral election.
With the school board election now in chaos weeks after it was supposed to be over with, and lingering concern over how the Mayoral vote was tallied, many in Oakland are now calling for an end of ranked-choice voting. For several election cycles now, the concern over ranked choice voting, a system that allows voters to vote for up to three candidates, but must rank them under a first, second, or third vote, with the end votes then being tallied up, has grown considerably.
Here’s a video report from NBC Bay Area:
There’s a straightforward way to make sure this doesn’t happen again. Return to traditional voting practices.
Just to give you an idea of how confusing ranked choice voting is, check out this report from Mercury News:
Why didn’t Oakland’s ranked choice ballot follow city charter?
The ongoing dispute over Oakland’s November school board election has opened a floodgate of questions about how Alameda County conducted its ranked choice voting system, and officials so far have no quick or easy answers.
A key question that officials have not yet answered: Should voters in Oakland’s mayoral race have been allowed to choose between all 10 candidates who ran for the office and not merely five?
According to the city charter, they should have. The charter reads: “The ranked choice voting ballot shall allow voters to rank as many choices as there are candidates.”
The charter does specify elsewhere that ballots could be limited to no fewer than three choices if the available voting equipment “cannot feasibly accommodate” the total number of candidates running.
But the Dominion Voting Systems election software used by Alameda County did, in fact, allow for ballots to include 10 choices, according to Registrar of Voters Tim Dupuis.
Prior to the November election, Dupuis met with the previous Oakland city clerk, and they opted to raise the number of choices on the election ballot from three to five — a policy shift for which there was no public announcement.
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