Opinion: Irvine Elections Do Not Truly Represent the Majority

Irvine’s City Council election results do not necessarily represent the preferences of the majority of Irvine Voters.

Irvine currently has the “plurality” voting system whereby each voter votes for one candidate and the candidate who gets the most votes wins. The winner does not necessarily get the majority of the votes.

Irvine has a very diverse population which, by design, resides within about 28 different village communities, each having unique amenities. Each village community has an interest in protecting the character of its individual village.

The objective of city elections is for the voters to choose city council members that best represent the interests of all city residents. However, the candidate that gets more votes than the other candidates does not necessarily represent the preference of the majority of the voters who elected him or her, especially in elections with many candidates. Voters in plurality voting systems often do not vote for their preferred candidate but instead vote for the candidate that they believe will win due to their fear that their least preferred candidate will win the election. Their vote for their most preferred candidate would be considered a “spoiler” vote which could end up placing their least favored candidate in office. Thus the elected representative will not necessarily represent the interests of the majority of Irvine’s diverse population. 

Ranked Choice Voting would:

  1. Ensure that the winner actually has the majority of voter support.  
  2. Voters vote for their preferred candidates without fear of voting for a “spoiler”.  
  3. Improve voter turn out as voters feel more secure in voting their conscience. Ranked Choice voting is associated with a 10 point increase in voter turnout. 
  4. Reduces government partisanship as it allows for the election of more moderate candidates. A candidate that has broad, cross-aisle appeal is more likely to be elected.
  5. Encourages more direct outreach to voters from candidates so that voters can compare them with their competitors. 
  6. Encourages civility during the campaign process. The system discourages negative campaigning because competing candidates want to appeal to voters for their second or third choices.
  7. Encourages a more diverse selection of candidates with regards to backgrounds, views and ideas, thereby reducing political polarization.

How Ranked Choice Voting Works

Single-winner elections: 

For the Ranked Choice voting system, the ballot lists the names of the candidates and next to the candidate names are a number of choices (based on how many seats are open). Each voter ranks their top candidate choices. Every voter’s first choice is counted. If one candidate receives over 50% (50% +1), that candidate wins. If no candidate hit the majority threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated and the voters who listed the losing candidate as their first choice have their second choice candidate entered into the tally.  The process continues until a candidate breaks the 50% +1 threshold. More information can be found here

Multi-winner elections:  

City Council and School Board elections are examples of multi-winner elections. With the Ranked Choice voting system the threshold is more than 25% (25% +1).  The ballot lists the names of the candidates and the voter ranks their choices in order of preference. Then the first choices are counted.  The candidates that exceeded the number of votes necessary are elected. If not all seats are filled, the surplus votes for the elected candidates will count towards those voters’ second choice. The candidate (s) who receive (s)s 25%+1 is(are) then elected.  The process continues until all elected positions are filled.

We have a Representative Democracy whereby our elected officials are to represent the people in their decision making process.

The goal of a representative democracy is to have its elected representatives represent the interests of their constituents. City Councils whose members are elected by a ranked choice voting system are guaranteed to represent the majority of its constituents.