Cal Cities helps block bill that would end ranked-choice voting

Apr 13, 2022

A bill that threatened charter cities’ authority to determine their election processes, AB 2808 (O’Donnell), was blocked last week after strong opposition from the League of California Cities, voting rights groups, government associations, and civil rights-focused nonprofits. The bill would have ended ranked-choice voting for the six California cities currently using it and removed the option for charter cities in future elections.

Ranked-choice voting lets voters rank political candidates in order of preference. If a candidate receives the majority of the vote, they win outright. If not, those rankings determine which candidates advance to the next round of voting. If a voter’s top candidate is eliminated, their second preference is counted. The process continues until someone gains majority support.

Cal Cities was a part of an opposition coalition that included California Common Cause, City Clerks Association of California, FairVote Action, ACLU California Action, Asian Americans Advancing Justice-California, and the League of Women Voters.

Currently, charter cities can adopt ranked-choice voting if city officials and voters believe that it matches their distinct needs and circumstances. Voters in the six cities that currently use ranked-choice voting elected to do so by large margins.

Cal Cities argued that the ability for charter cities to use ranked-choice voting should not be overturned by a blanket statewide ban, and that communities should have the ability to decide which election method best suits their city.

Pedro Hernandez, the legal and policy director for California Common Cause, agreed. “The innovations of California cities are vital to California’s democracy,” said Hernandez. “Cities elevate the floor of what is possible. We were pleased to join the League of California Cities on this effort.”

Upholding the ability for cities to choose which voting system best suits their interests has been a priority for Cal Cities for years. In 2019, Cal Cities supported SB 212 (Allen) which would have allowed general law cities to use ranked-choice voting. That bill was approved by both the Assembly and the Senate but was vetoed by Gov. Gavin Newsom.

However, in his veto message, the Governor was clear that charter cities should continue to have the ability to use ranked-choice voting and the state should continue to study the process, not ban it entirely. 

AB 2808 would have moved California in the opposite direction and offered voters less choice when it comes to how they elect their local representatives. Thanks to the strong efforts and wide-ranging partnerships, this measure was held for the year.