Ranked-Choice Voting Will Force Politicians To Swallow Their Pride

Categories: Politics
Arggggh, I don't want to be humble
A growing chorus of politicians who lost in November claim Ranked-Choice Voting, howls that the instant-runoff system used in San Francisco and other cities, is flawed and should be scrapped. But Steven Hill, architect of RCV systems such as ones used in here and in Oakland, suggested complaints have amounted to sour grapes from politicians who need to get used to something almost unthinkable for people with egos big enough to run for office -- go door to door begging to be considered second-best.

Last week California Watch's Lance Williams wrote about how San Leandro Mayor Tony Santos went from early RCV booster to RCV ball-buster after losing re-election by 232 votes in the sixth round of a computerized instant runoff. Santos was among numerous complainers who point to races where Santos, Oakland's Don Perata, and San Francisco supervisor candidates Janet Reilly and Tony Kelly had the most first-place votes yet lost.

"My race should be the poster child against this system," Santos told Williams. "It discriminates against minorities and individuals who have a problem with language, and further, with the  number of spoiled ballots, it reflects confusion among many voters, enough to [skew] elections."

Before grousing about it during a City Hall conversation with SF Weekly, Hill had apparently attempted to head these criticisms off at the pass.

According to Williams, Hill privately begged Santos not to go public with his complaints, given the defeated mayor's early role as a Ranked Choice proponent.

In the letter, Hill called the mayor "a model civil servant for the people of San Leandro," who was Hill's "personal hero" because Santos had previously lobbied for the new voting system.

"People will one day probably name a street or building or more after you," Williams cited Hill as writing to Santos. Of course, any complaining about Ranked Choice might end up "tarnishing" Santos' "beautiful legacy there in SL," he warned. Williams continued quoting Hill's missive:

"It looks like you are being a sore loser and vindictive besides," Hill wrote.  "One of the best things that any politician can do for their legacy ... is that when you lose re-election you go 'gracefully into that good night.'"

 "What I would love to do is give you a great hug, because I feel such a warm brotherly feeling toward you, like two soldiers of democracy that fought in the trenches together."

However good Hill may be at designing a new way of counting votes, he's apparently not skilled at manipulating angry, disappointed people. Santos, obviously, went public with his complaints.

Two days later, after Williams' piece ran, Hill was at a City Hall cocktail complaining that RCV haters have failed to recognize the system's hidden benefit. It forces politicians into groveling for crumbs, punishing anyone who fails to knock on the doors of opponents' supporters. Oakland's Jean Quan spent countless hours at this task, begging people to consider her a least-worst choice.

He suggested politicians now complaining about the system are merely disappointed they can't abandon their old, me-first ways. Given the published content of his letter to Santos, Hill knows a thing or two about humbling oneself for a cause.

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