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Big Daddy

Dear Big Daddy,
I hate ranked choice voting! It makes my head hurt.
–Confused in Chinatown

Dear old person,

RCV isn’t that complicated, people. Heck, way back in the days before people have even heard of it, I practiced ranked choice voting several nights a week. At the bar, I mean. When my first choice wasn’t hot to trot, I moved on to my second choice, and so forth. Since I was usually about a sheet-and-a-half to the wind, I sure wasn’t doing any math in my head. Though I usually got my first choice.

And a solid third of San Francisco voters probably will, too. Yeah, RCV gave Oakland voters Jean “Nope, Doesn’t Ring a Bell” Quan. But as of 11 a.m. PT Thursday, it appears highly likely that San Francisco voters will get to fear Ed Lee’s moustache for four more years. Wonder what’s in that moustache. Probably some chowder.

Anyhoo, voters seem to think that RCV will increase their chances of waking up the second Wednesday in November and having to do the electoral walk of shame. But really, how is this any different from the current system? That’s how elections work. If you’re lucky, you get your girl or guy into office. Within a few weeks, you start to complain about what a disappointment they are. Actually, that’s how relationships work, too, but you didn’t come here for that kind of advice.

I mean, heck, look at labor unions. In a fit of sodden optimism they talked themselves into thinking Jerry Brown was a liberal. When they woke up feeling like they’d been hit by a two-by-four and realized they were in bed with a guy who was open to turning their pensions into 401(k)s, I’m sure a lot of them wanted to chew their arm off to get away. Though put him up against eMeg or any other Republican, they’ll still let him in drunk at 3 a.m. any night of the week.

Heck, RCV is the natural result of the politics of opposition. As in, we’re not really for stuff anymore as much as we’re against stuff. RCV isn’t about getting the person we want — because in a lot of elections, there isn’t anybody we really want. It’s about not getting the person we don’t want. To enough Oakland voters, Don Perata was that guy — and they had three chances to show it. Which could bring me to the dark side of name ID, but that’s a whole other column.

Though it does bring me to my favorite thing about RCV — that is, anything that makes the political class nervous makes me happy. Yeah, I’m probably just jealous because I’m not in the game anymore. But the charges by old white guys like Perata that RCV is racist and disenfranchises voters are getting more absurd every time an RCV elections results in another minority candidate getting into office. You know, like doubling the number of minorities on the SF Board of Supervisors over the last seven years.

What Perata is saying is that you’re not smart enough to handle RCV, and the evidence is he didn’t get elected. Impeccable logic, that.

The weird part is RCV comes from where white people come from: Europe. And there’s all sorts of things from Europe that used to scare us that just seem mundane now: quiche, soccer, The Rolling Stones, beer that doesn’t suck, raves, bicycle racing, democracy, Simon Cowell, croissants – you get the idea.  
Sure, lots of us still get freaked out by traffic circles and straight guys carrying pink backpacks. But we’ll get over it.


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