Berkeley, Oakland, San Leandro Debut Ranked-Choice Voting After Judge Upholds S.F. System

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In the wake of a federal court ruling that upheld San Francisco's system of ranked-choice voting, three East Bay cities are moving ahead with plans to adopt "RCV" in this fall's elections.

Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro will be using the balloting system -- which allows voters to cast up to three votes for candidates in order of preference, avoiding subsequent runoff elections if results are too close to call -- for the first time this November.

Plans to adopt RCV in these municipalities were under way before a lawsuit was filed challenging the voting method in San Francisco. But the recent judge's decision rejecting the San Francisco suit doesn't hurt, according to an East Bay election official.

"I think the plan was to move forward all along," says Alameda County Registrar of Voters Dave McDonald. (The county runs elections in all three of the cities where RCV will be making its debut.) Of the court decision, he said, "Certainly that helps. I don't think that anybody, at least at the county or state level, thought that the lawsuit would prevail. We're pretty confident."

Failed supervisorial candidate Ron Dudum filed the lawsuit against RCV in San Francisco, asserting it was unconstitutional because it limited voters to only three choices of candidate. However, earlier this month, U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg issued a decision rejecting the legal challenge.

Seeborg asserted that though "a limitation to no more than three preferences in a large field of candidates does exert some burden on voting rights, it is not severe," and that "important government interests are well-served by the limitation."

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