Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) has been used in Oakland since 2010. Oakland elects its Mayor, City Council members, City Attorney, City Auditor, and School Directors using Ranked-Choice Voting. RCV was approved by Oakland voters in 2006 with the adoption of Measure O.

The history of Ranked-Choice Voting in Oakland goes back to 2000. In the 2000 general election, Oakland voters passed Measure I, which provided for special elections to fill city council vacancies, and also provided that alternative voting methods, including Ranked-Choice Voting (referred to as Preference Voting in the City Charter) be used to the greatest extent feasible to increase voter participation. In 2002, Oakland voters passed Measure H, which amended the Charter to provide for special elections and, if necessary, instant runoff elections to fill mayoral vacancies. Then in November 2006, Oakland voters passed Measure O, which mandated Ranked-Choice Voting, with 68.6% of the vote – receiving more votes than for any other municipal candidate or measure in the 2006 general election. The Measure O ballot question was, “"Shall the City Charter be amended to require the use of Ranked-Choice voting, known sometimes as instant runoff voting, to elect city offices by a majority vote at a November election without holding a prior June election?" The first Oakland election that used the RCV system was the 2010 general election.


Text from the Alameda County Registrar of Voters' Ranked-Choice Voting FAQ:

What is Ranked-Choice Voting?

Ranked-Choice Voting or "Instant Run-Off Voting," allows voters to rank up to three candidates, in order of preference, when marking their ballots. Ranked-choice voting eliminates the need for run-off elections, and is approved for use in Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro.

Does my vote still count if I vote for the same candidate three times?

Yes. Your vote will count only once for that candidate.

Does my vote still count if I only select one choice?

Yes. Your vote will count for your one choice.

Who is elected using a Ranked-Choice Voting ballot?

Berkeley voters use Ranked-Choice Voting to elect the Mayor, Members of the City Council, and the City Auditor. Oakland elects its Mayor, City Council members, City Attorney, City Auditor, and School Directors using Ranked-Choice Voting. San Leandro uses Ranked-Choice Voting to elect its Mayor and City Council members.

How are Ranked-Choice votes counted?

With Ranked-Choice Voting, if a candidate receives a majority (50%+1) of the first-choice votes cast for that office, that candidate will be elected. However, if no candidate receives a majority of the first-choice votes cast, an elimination process begins. The candidate who received the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Next, each vote cast for that candidate will be transferred to the voter's next-ranked choice among the remaining candidates. This elimination process will continue until one candidate receives a majority and is deemed the winner.

How Do I Mark The Ranked-Choice Voting Ballot?

The Ranked-Choice ballot card is designed in a side-by-side column format and lists the names of all of the candidates in three repeating columns. This format allows a voter to select a first-choice candidate in the first column, a second-choice candidate in the second column, and a third-choice candidate in the third column. Voters will connect the head and tail of the arrow next to the name of the candidate they choose.

Must I rank three candidates for each office?

No. A voter may—but is not required to—rank three choices for each office. If there are fewer than three candidates for the same office, or to rank fewer than three candidates, you may leave any remaining columns blank.

If I really want my first-choice candidate to win, should I rank the candidate as my first, second and third choice?

No. Ranking a candidate more than once does not benefit the candidate. If a voter ranks one candidate as the voter's first, second and third choice, it is the same as if the voter leaves the second or third choice blank. In other words, if the candidate is eliminated that candidate is no longer eligible to receive second or third choice votes.

Can I give candidates the same ranking?

No. If a voter gives more than one candidate the same ranking, the vote cannot be counted. Only one candidate can represent the voter's first, second, or third choice.

Can I write a candidate's name on my ballot in any column?

Yes. Each column provides space for qualified Write-In candidates. Only qualified Write-In candidates can receive votes. After writing the name of the qualified candidate, be sure to connect the head and tail of the arrow next to the space.

Will there be a subsequent run-off?

No, Ranked-Choice Voting eliminates the need for run-off elections.

What if I have further questions?

If you have further questions about ranked-choice voting, please call the Alameda County Registrar of Voters Office at (510) 272-6933.

Alameda County explanation:

Ranked-Choice Voting (also known as instant runoff voting) allows voters to rank a first, second and third choice candidate for a single office. This makes it possible to elect local officials by majority vote without the need for a separate run-off election.

Ranked-Choice Voting does not affect the election of County, State and federal officials or the approval or rejection of ballot measures.

If you vote for the same candidate three times, your vote will only count once.

If you only select one choice, your vote will still count.

Your second choice will be counted only if your first choice candidate has been eliminated. Your third choice will be counted only if both your first choice and second choice candidates have been eliminated.

an example of how RCV works

Learn more:

  • Alameda County FAQ
  • Fair Vote article from first election
  • Oakland North explanation of how the D1 election worked in 2012.
  • PBS explains Quan's win in 2010
  • SFGate article from 2012 when City Council considered repeal of RCV.

Easy to Understand Video from Minnesota Public Radio (they also have RCV in Minneapolis).

Video from Alameda County


In 2012, Ignacio de la Fuente proposed repealing RCV. He disliked Jean Quan, who had been elected Mayor in 20120 thanks to RCV. Pat KernighanLibby SchaafNancy Nadel, Rebecca Kaplan and Jean Quan supported it. Larry Reid and Desley Brooks opposed RCV. (source)