BY ANTHONY B. ‘TONY’ SANTOS – Dear Mayor and Honolulu City Council members – It is my understanding that there is a move in Honolulu to introduce IRV/RCV (ranked choice voting). I would suggest the Council not adopt IRV elections as it does not have the results intended. It will not result in a majority victor. There are many problems with ranked choice voting. At one time, I was a supporter of ranked choice voting but no more.
I was born and raised on the Island and still have many relatives on the Island. As someone from Honolulu, I would not want to subject them to instant runoff voting.
RCV has many inherent problems which cannot be remedied. Those who support the idea of RCV misrepresent the system and over simplify the process. Some reasons why the system does not result in its promised result are as follows:
- Proponents suggest the system saves money; this is just not true. The introduction of the program itself is quite costly. Not only is the equipment expensive, staff time can be unusually high. Education costs are needed in each election. In Oakland, they spent $3.50 per targeted voter in education.
- Proponents claim the system produces a 50% plus one majority for the winner; this is just not true. Review the outcome of the District 10 race in San Francisco where the winner received only 24% of the votes cast. 17,808 voters voted that day, and the “winner” received 4,321 votes. In my recent election for Mayor, here in San Leandro, California, the winner actually received 45.9% of the votes cast after the sixth round of counting.
- RCV did not increase voter turnout as the proponent’s claimed would occur.
- RCV also produces voter confusion and results in more spoiled ballots than any other type of elections. Older voters and those with a language problem became confused and this leads to a higher number of spoiled ballots. S study of the SF election data showed a 300% increase of spoiled ballots in lower income minority neighborhoods. Since the election I have had a number of individuals tell me they do not like ranked choice voting and did not like the idea of ranking candidates. They wanted to vote for only one candidate and not vote anyone but one individual.
- And instead of having a more civil campaign, as the RCV salesmen claimed it would, campaigns are just as strident as any other campaign and the campaign in San Leandro, California was the most negative I had ever participated in. This was true of San Francisco and Oakland as well.
- Vote by Mail (VBM) ballots had a much higher percentage of spoiled ballots than those cast at polling places. This is due to no system available to check for errors before they send the ballots back. In precinct voting, an optical scanner checks the ballot to see if there are over votes in the RCV election, and allows the voter to correct them. There were also specially trained Election Workers available to answer questions at precincts
- Finally, the election results became very convoluted. No one seemed to know what the outcome was and then when the results were announced, many felt they had not voted at all. Note that many votes become exhausted before they were fully counted and therefore you end up with fewer votes counted then initially cast. In my situation, over 22,464 voters cast ballots and at the end of the sixth round, the final number of votes cast was 20,322. Over 2130 votes ended up spoiled or exhausted. What became of these votes? There has never been an answer from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters.
In conclusion, ranked choice voting or instant runoff voting is undemocratic and un-American. Before adopting instant runoff voting, it is recommended you review the pros and cons quite carefully and I am sure at the end of your deliberations, you will reject instant runoff or ranked choice voting. If possible, I would appreciate the opportunity to address your council on the subject. I do need a reason to visit the city of my birth and to spend time with my family. I have two cousins who are police officers in Honolulu.
Anthony B. ‘Tony’ Santos is the Former Mayor for the city of San Leandro, California