Campaigns/Elections

Ways to Vote

Electoral home rule

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The advocates of electoral reform have offered many alternatives to the familiar winner-take-all system. There's limited voting, in which you have fewer votes than there are seats to be filled. There's cumulative voting, in which you cast multiple votes, choosing either to divide them among different candidates or pile them all on one name. There's the instant runoff, in which you rank the candidates by preference. If your first choice loses on the first count, your second choice gets your vote in the second round, and so on until a candidate has a majority.

If Assemblywoman Loni Hancock (D?Berkeley) gets her way, Golden State voters will have a chance to use any or all of those options at election time. In February, Hancock introduced AB 1039, a bill that would let California cities and counties choose which electoral system they prefer. The potential advantages range from financial savings (an instant runoff is cheaper than actually holding a second election) to more voter options (it also makes third-party candidates more viable). Furthermore, by allowing different jurisdictions to experiment with different methods, Hancock's bill avoids the straightjacket of a one-size-fits-all solution: Ideas that work can be imitated, ideas that don't can be dropped, and ideas that fare better in some contexts than others can take hold where they're appropriate.

At press time, the bill is in the early stages of the lawmaking process—it doesn't have any co-sponsors yet, and it's still several steps from getting to the floor.