Making Every Vote Count in Santa Clara

Posted by Margaret Okuzumi on February 09, 2018


On January 30th, the Santa Clara City Council unanimously voted to put a measure on the June ballot that will transform how local city council members and city officers are elected. This historic ballot measure will give voters greater choice and a stronger voice. If passed by voters, the measure will amend the City’s charter to create two districts and elect 3 city council members to each using ranked choice voting (RCV). Santa Clara could be the first city in the country since the 1950s to use this form of multi-seat RCV. The mayor, clerk, and police chief will also be elected citywide by RCV.

At a City Council hearing, Charter Review Committee member Jodi Muirhead voiced her support of the measure.

“The idea of minority representation and having different viewpoints on the dais I think is really important,” she said. “It’s the ranked choice voting part of [of the measure] that is going to move us forward in this direction.”

The city currently uses an at-large numbered seat system to elect its six city council members, where candidates pick a numbered seat to run for but are elected by plurality. This means that candidates with the most votes get elected, even if they don’t have a majority. This is a winner-take-all system where some voters elect all representatives and others do not.

The Asian American community constitutes nearly 40 percent of the city’s population, and since 2002, there have been 12 attempts by Asian American candidates to serve on the City Council. However, the council has yet to reflect this diversity. Further, since 2002, there have been three instances where candidates of color ran against each other for the same seat, thus splitting support among the voter bases. “As one of the minority candidates who ran in 2016, I support the recommendation of the Charter Review Committee,” said Suds Jain.  

Many other democracies have benefited from the use of ranked choice voting. Here in the Silicon Valley, we have the technology and I believe the sophistication to adopt a way of voting that better expresses the wishes of the voters, encourages voter participation, and makes campaigns more civil rather than being stuck with binary choices. This ingenious solution developed by the residents of Santa Clara is paving the way in innovation, and I’m excited to be part of this historic effort.

The measure will be on the June 5th ballot. Click here to learn more about the measure.

Margaret Okuzumi is serving as the Campaign Manager for the Santa Clara June ballot measure and has been a long-time community organizer and activist. She has served on numerous nonprofit boards and government commissions locally and statewide. To contact Margaret and get involved in the campaign, email [email protected].

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