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NORTH BAY BOH E MI A N | NOV E M BE R 1 6 – 22, 20 1 1 | BO H E M I AN.COM



Rhapsodies Voters’ Choice

Ranked-choice voting and the changing American ballot BY CRAIG KAUFMAN


hough Tuesday’s elections passed without much notice, the national-level exposure for San Francisco’s ranked-choice voting (RCV) was significant. With RCV, which also transformed Oakland’s 2010 elections, voters can list first, second and third choices. If no candidate receives a majority of first-place votes, the last-place candidate is eliminated, with his or her supporters’ second-place choices distributed to the remaining candidates. This process repeats, if necessary, until one candidate has 50 percent.

Ranked-choice voting has several benefits. First, it avoids “spoilers.” In Florida in 2000, Ralph Nader would have been eliminated, his voters’ second-choice votes distributed to Bush and Gore. Presumably, most Nader voters would have chosen Gore second, which would have resulted in Gore winning. Ranked-choice also fits both progressive and Tea Party values. It decreases bureaucratic complication and spending by discarding run-off elections (which favor monied candidates and generally ensure much lower turnout). Additionally, it reduces negative campaigning and the tendency of candidates to narrowly focus on specific demographics: to earn second-place votes, candidates must attract opponents’ supporters. In Oakland and San Francisco, RCV has rapidly diversified elections. Along with publicly financed elections, RCV inspired numerous San Franciscans to run. The 11 upper-tier mayoral candidates included five Asian Americans, two Latinos, two women (one disabled) and one gay man. All highly qualified, most grew up in humble circumstances. In last year’s mayor election in Oakland, the city elected an underfunded longtime community activist as mayor—an Asian-American woman, a first for a large city. Indeed, America’s largest cities already point to a future where minorities will be the U.S. majority. In San Francisco, most city officials and candidates hail from underrepresented groups. (The city’s other major 2011 races both spotlighted Iranian-American candidates.) San Francisco is a pioneer in racial and sexualorientation parity and politics. Unfortunately, though its campaigns featured nationally, few of these stories focused directly on diversity—and this at a time when our president’s top Republican challenger in the polls is also African-American, and when a Latino and a woman lead many vice presidential lists. Craig Kaufman has worked both nonpartisan and partisan campaigns, coordinated voting-access campaigns and served as director for a diversity-education nonprofit.

Drug Wars

I read the letter “Reefer Madness, Indeed” by Jonah Raskin (“Open Mic,” Nov. 9), and I couldn’t agree more. Several years ago I read an article that talked about a study done by Harvard and/or the Los Angeles Medical Center. They interviewed 5,000 people who had smoked pot at least once a day for 20 years, and none of them had cancer or issues with any other aliments due to smoking pot. On the other hand, each year over 500,000 people die from cancer or related diseases from smoking cigarettes. Why is tobacco legal, and pot is not? Couldn’t have anything to do with the big tobacco industry making money, could it? We live in hypocrisy, not a democracy.


The Real Threat of the Occupiers The last three weeks of my life have been completely consumed with the Occupy Santa Rosa movement. It has been inspiring, frustrating, overwhelming, but most of all, exciting. But I keep hearing critiques lobbed at the movement, and I have to wonder to myself: How could someone oppose us when we are merely standing up for ourselves? Is it because we’re all hippie stoners who don’t have jobs? Surely not. I’m a full-time worker and I don’t like weed or drum circles. Is it because we’re envious of rich people? Nope. Just experiencing one episode of Real Housewives is enough to make me content with my modest lifestyle. Is it because our encampment is not an effective way of making our voice heard? I dare anyone to find a protest tactic in recent memory that has garnered this much national attention.

Could it be because we do not have a message? Maybe you’d like to ask our local banks and credit unions that just saw the busiest day ever because we mobilized our community to withdraw their money from Wall Street banks. No, it cannot be for any of these reasons that we are being criticized.

The Occupy movement is being opposed because we are a living, breathing demonstration that a new world is possible. We are sending a clear message to the economic and political rulers of this country: Your services are no longer needed. Our current system has all but eliminated programs that would help those with mental illness or drug addictions, but at Occupy Santa Rosa people are creatively intervening with these folks and supporting them. People are unable to afford food, but at Occupy Santa Rosa we feed them for free, three times a day. People are angry at their situation and see the political system ignoring them, but at Occupy Santa Rosa they have a chance to vent their frustrations in a productive way. People feel isolated by this system, and at Occupy Santa Rosa they have a chance to connect with hundreds of other people who have also have struggled through this economy and are looking for ways to fight back. The majority of citizens do not vote. At our general assembly (which happens every day), everyone partakes in making decisions and everyone’s opinion matters. We are providing things that this system is either unable or unwilling to provide for the majority of its people. That is why it is a threat and why it has captured the imagination of the world. Do we argue? Yes! Argument is the crux of democracy. Are we completely representative of every single community in Santa Rosa? Not yet. But it takes time to figure this stuff out, and if anyone expects us to have all the answers one month into our movement, then I think they have unrealistic expectations.


2011 h o l i d a y a r t s


2011 h o l i d a y a r t s