"Jean the Giant-Killer," Feature, 11/17
A Tasty Pudding
This is an excellent article. Jean Quan is officially the Mayor-Elect of Oakland! What Quan has done, whether a person supports her or not, which I surely do, is a quintessential lesson in grassroots politics. She went door-to-door, block-by-block introducing herself and educating people about Don Perata, the long-term kingpin of not only Oakland politics, but California politics. He has been the quintessential pay-as-you-go politician. He took pride in calling himself The Don, clearly using the Mafia title in jest, but in all seriousness, to try to intimidate anyone who tried to oppose him. Ranked-choice voting has been the best thing that has ever happened to the City of Oakland. It spares the City of Oakland of a costly runoff, and Perata outspending her, which he did 5 to 1 during this past election. I am very confident that even in a runoff that Quan still would've beaten him. Most Oaklanders are wise, fair, pragmatic and we embrace our diversity. We are not only one of the most integrated cities in the whole country, but we all get along quite well. We love our diversity. Jean is the best person for building coalitions and bringing people together. The proof is in the pudding ... mmmmmmm.
Warren Taylor, Oakland
Be That Leader
Mayor-elect Quan, the city of my birth is in dire trouble. Crime, a broke city, Oak Knoll, the port and the city, and (I know it's not your responsibility) the schools are only some of the problems facing you and the rest of Oakland. Mayor Quan, the mission you've chosen to accept will be the toughest of your career. You will take leadership of a city in desperate need of a great leader. Please be that leader.
Robert Au, Austin, Texas
Counting the Votes
Two points were missed in the RCV discussion: The second (or third) choices of Perata voters never could have mattered, because their votes could not have transferred to anyone else as long as he was still in first (or second) place. So it really makes no difference who Perata voters might have chosen. For the same reason, the third choices of Quan or Kaplan voters never could have mattered because their votes could not have transferred more than once before a winner was determined.
Robert Denham, Berkeley
Yes, Quan won fair and square. No, she does not have a mandate. All of Quan's first-, second-, and third-choice votes amount to 44 percent of the 122,000 voters. That's not a mandate, and many people already are talking about how to fix or just toss out ranked-choice balloting. One insider beat another, despite ranked-choice voting, lots of other candidates, and one new candidate — Joe Tuman — who became a serious contender until the media drowned him out in the horse race coverage of the election.
Charles Pine, Oakland
Your front-page story, "Jean the Giant-Killer," with its bold assertion, "It wasn't just about ranked-choice voting," gave me quite a start. Oakland has a bizarre new mayoral election system, which when no candidate initially gets a majority of all the votes, allows some voters to vote a second time. And who, pray tell, gets to vote a second time? Why folks that voted for the least popular candidate. And why should they get to decide the election? No one has quite bothered to spell reasons for that bizarre privilege. Let's just call this "loserocracy," because it is no longer democracy. This absurd situation is straight out of George Orwell's Animal Farm, where some of the animals are more equal than others.
Ranked-election theft is what we have seen in the Oakland mayoral election. My understanding of our American democracy is that elections are won by the person with the most votes. A simple and straightforward way of picking an election winner: Just count all the votes and the candidate with the most votes is declared the winner. But election losers in the City of Oakland apparently tired of that simplicity. No, they decided that no one could be an election winner unless they had a majority of all the votes cast. Now this presented a small problem: What if no one candidate got a majority of all the votes cast in an election? So the powers that be invented a run-off election staged between the top two candidates. But the perennial election losers tired of this. No, they wanted to devise an election system that turned losers into winners. So we now have a rank-voting system where the second and third choices of voters who voted for the least popular candidate can now be as important as the original votes for the leading candidate. This is insane. This is Elections in Wonderland. It is illegal and unconstitutional to "distribute" the votes of one candidate and give them to another candidate. This rank election counting scheme violates my rights to have my vote counted in an honest election. We need to return to the traditional American election with the candidate with the most votes declared the winner.
James K. Sayre, Oakland
Every single feature that you are complaining about — 1) a second election 2) between the top two votegetters, 3) in which people who voted for one of the losers get to vote vote again 4) for the purpose of giving one candidate a majority of the vote — was also a feature of Oakland's prior system of run-off elections. But run-offs also cost the taxpayers more money.