What is Measure BB?

Measure BB would institute proportional ranked choice voting in Albany for the City Council and School Board. 

What is proportional ranked choice voting? 

The goal of proportional ranked choice voting (RCV) is to produce an elected body that reflects the makeup of the electorate as closely as possible. This includes better representation for our diversity of opinion, values, race, ethnicity, gender, politics, neighborhood, and many other factors.  

At its heart, proportional RCV is a method of voting in which voters rank candidates on the ballot in order of preference -- first choice, second choice, and so on. This simple voting method levels the playing field by giving voters more choice, allowing them to vote for who they most prefer, while allowing back-up choices so that no vote will ever be wasted.  

How proportional RCV is counted depends on whether RCV is used to elect a single office, like a supervisor or state representative from a single district, or if it used to elect more than one position at once, such as a city council elected by proportional RCV.

In Albany’s case, the size of the City Council and School Board would remain the same -- voters simply rank the candidates in the general November election. This form of RCV is used in Cambridge, MA; Minneapolis, MN; was used to resolve a Federal Voting Rights case in Eastpointe, MI; and will be used 2022 in Palm Desert, CA as part of a California Voting Rights Act settlement. 

What is the problem with how we vote now? 

Right now you can vote for as many candidates as there are seats to be filled on the City Council and School Board. While this might sound fair at first, the current system tends to let the biggest voting group sweep up all the seats (instead of just getting the biggest share). This is known as a winner-take-all system. 

This is sometimes referred to as "fencing out" smaller groups of voters, and it's the reason that cities with these systems are being sued more and more. In Albany, it creates a government that doesn't truly reflect our racial, ethnic, economic, and political diversity.

Winner-take-all incentivizes strategic voting: In order to have your vote matter, or worse, to avoid your worst case scenario, you have to vote tactically. If you use all of your votes you run the risk of hurting candidates you like who do not have as much support from others. This encourages “bullet voting”-- where you only vote for one of your favorite candidates, and not use your other votes.  

Winner-take-all prevents minority representation: Because a majority can easily monopolize representation, Asian American and Pacific Islander, Latino, and Black voters have been routinely denied representation in our government. 

How does proportional ranked choice voting solve these problems?

Because proportional ranked choice voting (RCV) preserves your vote and rewards differences of opinion, it provides a number of advantages over our current winner take all system: 

Inclusive representation of our community: Proportional RCV is a way to communicate more information about your preferences, so that it can be taken into account when the votes are tallied. It also means that seats are won in proportion to votes won instead of giving a monopoly on political power to the majority. A seat on the City Council can be won by any group that turns out a certain number of votes for a candidate (over a quarter of the vote when electing three, and over a third of the vote when electing two). This results in a government that represents more voters, and will work for all.

Proportional ranked choice voting allows you to vote your heartBecause voters rank their ballots in order of preference, no vote is wasted or hurts the candidate you want to win. 

Representation for minority communities: Under proportional RCV the number of votes needed to win is more accessible for for candidates supported by ethnic and growing communities. This empowers voters to have a meaningful vote and voice in city elections. Measure BB will ensure communities of color will have an opportunity to elect their candidates of choice. 

What does a ranked choice voting ballot look like? 

Below is a sample of the ranked choice voting ballot, similar to what is used in Berkeley, Oakland, and San Leandro. Albany will also use this style ballot if we pass Measure BB.

Voters rank candidates in order of choice, and may rank as many or as few candidates as they wish. 

Will voters understand how to fill out their ballots?

Voters rank candidates in order of preference. Studies have shown that voters find Ranked Choice Voting instructions easy to understand. Casting a vote at a precinct won’t otherwise change.

Self‐Reported Understanding of Ranked‐Choice Voting
Todd Donovan, Caroline Tolbert, Kellen Gracey
First published: 23 April 2019

Sarah John, Caroline Tolbert, Results of the Rutgers-Eagleton Institute of Politics poll on voter perceptions and experiences with ranked choice voting in November 2014 city elections in California.

Will there be a public education campaign prior to the first proportional ranked choice voting election? 

The proposed text of Measure BB requires the city to conduct a voter education an outreach campaign before each election, in multiple languages for the first two elections. The city will conduct public meetings and service announcements through different media, including media serving additional supported language communities to familiarize voters with the election method. Materials and information will be provided in additional supported languages and be accessible to individuals with disabilities. 

Would I have to rank all the candidates? 

You may rank as many or as few as you wish. 

How many voters are expected to see their #1 choice elected? 

​Evidence from other cities shows that 77% of voters in a Ranked Choice Voting (Proportional Representation) elections see their #1 choice elected, and 92% see one of their first two choices elected.

In Albany, we anticipate that 75% of voters will see one of their choices elected when three seats are filled, over 66% of voters will see one of their choices elected when two seats are filled. 

How are the winners determined in a proportional ranked choice voting count? 

Proportional ranked choice voting is designed to make sure as many votes as possible count in the election. 

In Albany, because there will be either two or three seats up for election during a general election, the number of votes needed to win is over a third of the vote to fill two seats, and over a quarter of the vote to fill three seats. The amount of votes is set at these amounts because it's mathematically impossible for either a third candidate to have over a third of the vote, or a fourth candidate to have over a quarter of the vote. 

The count is conducted in a series of rounds. When electing three, a candidate must receive at least a quarter (25%) of the vote. In each round, we check to see if any candidate has enough votes to win one of the seats. 

  • If so, they are elected, and we go to the next round.
  • If not, we eliminate the candidate in last place. 
  • If a voter marked the eliminated candidate as their 1st choice, their vote will instantly count for their next choice.
  • If a voter's top-ranked candidate is elected and receives more votes than they need to win, that voter has a portion of their vote count for the next person ranked on their ballot. 
  • This continues until all seats are filled.  

Your vote is counted for your second choice only if your first choice is eliminated or if your top-ranked candidate is elected and receives more votes than they need to win.

Here is a video from Minnesota Public Radio explaining how your vote is counted in a series of runoff elections. This assures your vote has maximum effectiveness and candidates representing a diversity of viewpoints win. You may notice that in the video they refer to “IRV 2.0” or Instant Runoff Voting instead of RCV, but don't worry, this is just another name for RCV.

How many votes will it take to win one seat? 

Around 2,050 when filling three seats, and around 2,730 when filling two seats if turnout continues close to the average of the last three Albany elections (8,194 ballots cast), which is less than the over 4,200 votes it has taken to win one city-wide ballot measure in those same elections, or less than the 4,245 votes it took to win a seat in the 2018 City Council election. 

If turnout were to jump to as high as 10,000 under proportional ranked choice voting, as it might, then it would still offer a huge advantage over winner-take-all elections: just over 2,500 when three seats are filled, and just over 3,333 votes when two seats are filled. 

How did this measure come to be on the ballot? 

RCV is on the Ballot today thanks to the work of Voter Choice Albany, a group of Albany residents advocating for electoral reform, The unanimous action of the City Council, and the support of voters like you. For more information on who we are and a full summary of the long road RCV in Albany took to become Measure BB, please see our About Us and How We Got Here sections! 

How much will it cost? 

Implementing proportional ranked choice voting will cost the School District and the City $26,000 per election. Split between the two bodies and amortized, each will pay just $6,500 a year. The reason the cost is this low is because the Alameda Registrar of Voters already has ranked choice voting capabilities, which are shared among the three other cities that use RCV for their own elections. 

Will it make a difference?

Absolutely. Right now, the largest group of voters can sweep 100% of the seats. With Proportional ranked choice voting, all voters across the city will have an equal say in who gets elected. If candidates want to win, they will have to campaign for the support of diverse communities, and these communities will have greater say in who is elected. 

Whether it changes who wins depends on each election, but it will always ensure that the winners of the election represent a greater share of the electorate. 

It will also give voters the ability to support candidates in order of preference. Albany voters have already had to make hard choices about whether to use all their votes or just one, and whether their preferred candidate has a realistic chance of winning or would just be a wasted vote. RCV allows you to vote honestly based on your real preferences without fear of electability or hurting your candidate.

Who else supports Measure BB? 

Measure BB has been endorsed by Albany Mayor Nick Pilch, Albany City Councilmember Pete Maass, Alameda County District 5 Supervisor Keith Carson, The League of Women Voters Albany, Berkeley and Emeryville, Bay Rising, and many others. Please see our endorsements page for a full list and consider endorsing yourself!