The Alameda Sun published numerous letters and an opinion piece (“Election Results Reveal Need for Ranked Choice Voting,” Dec. 8; https://alamedasun.com/news/election-results-reveal-need-ranked-choice-v...) promoting the virtues of “ranked-choice voting.” Hold your horses!
One line repeated is, “It’s simple.” Well, maybe in theory, but, in practice, a lot of voters have been very confused. And many who didn’t understand and voted for only one candidate, thereby handed over some of their voting power to those who did understand the system. Thus, the system is weighted to benefit those who can follow the maze of instructions.
Secondly, another line is that you get results “instantly.” But that “instant” can drag on for quite some time. Witness the recent Oakland mayoral election.
However, my main concern is something more serious. Voting has changed a lot over recent decades. In the 1990s the vast majority voted on election day in their precinct. It was a transparent process. Election workers had books with lists of registered voters in the precinct and you signed in and they checked your signature right there and gave you a ballot.
You voted in a booth and then dropped your ballot into a box. Accommodations were made for people with disabilities, etc., but this is how it worked for most people. The ballots were counted for that precinct at the polling station at the end of the day. Election observers could witness the entire process.
Today, it’s a whole different ball game. Despite warnings from both Republicans and Democrats about dangers of mail-in ballots, the rules have been increasingly loosened, and particularly under COVID, we went to widespread mail-in (and drop-box) ballots.
In the recent election, 92 percent were mail-in. And despite the hype, this has only marginally increased voter participation. However, it has made the entire process much more opaque.
I went several times to the Registrar of Voters office during the recent election period to observe. Many things were off limits to observers. At one point, I spoke with the Registrar, Tim Dupuis, but did not get clear answers to a number of questions. My impression is that his intention was to follow the rule book, but not really make the election process transparent to an honestly interested citizen.
I’m sure 99 percent of the election workers are perfectly upstanding in carrying out their duties, but essentially, we are asked to take it on faith that the elections are conducted fairly.
What if a bad actor comes along and wants to manipulate the results of an election? Can we swear that such a thing would never happen? I don’t think so.
The reason we have a system with election observers is to keep the system honest and to give people confidence that it is honest. The more complexities we put into the system and the more hidden we make the process from public scrutiny, the more we sacrifice public confidence.
To me, the convenience of ranked choice does not measure up. It adds more darkness to the process.