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Political Reform Blog

A Blog from New America's Political Reform Program

Berkeley Moves Forward with Instant Runoff Voting

Published:  January 12, 2010
It’s not quite official, but Berkeley certainly looks like it will be saying “yes” to Instant Runoff Voting. Although Berkeley adopted IRV by a wide margin back in 2004 it has yet to actually use this voting method. That looks likely to change. Last week, the Oakland City Council voted to move forward with IRV, upholding a mandate from Oakland voters and a directive from the city charter. San Leandro’s city council will vote next week on the IRV issue and that’s where Berkeley comes into play. By the terms of a Memorandum of Understanding created at the behest of the Alameda County Registrar of Voters, the three Alameda County cities capable of using IRV—San Leandro, Berkeley and Oakland—would enter into an Agreement to proportionally share the costs of implementing Instant Runoff Voting, including community education and equipment upgrades. If one city backs out, the others are obligated to pick up that city’s share of the costs. City officials in San Leandro have been understandably concerned that San Leandro, if it agreed to use IRV, could get stuck with another city’s costs if either Berkeley or Oakland decided against using IRV. That should no longer be a concern. Oakland voted last week to move forward with IRV and now the Berkeley City Manager has sent a letter to San Leandro saying that Berkeley is ready to move forward with IRV…provided that San Leandro does as well. According to the City Manager’s letter, and by the terms of a resolution Berkeley adopted in 2008 which is referenced in that letter, Berkeley would be seemingly obligated to use IRV once San Leandro says it will. This is one less thing for San Leandro officials to have to worry about.

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