Letter From Steve Chessin

Re: Charter Review Committee Off and… Plodding

Aside from the obvious bias against PR (only criticisms of the various systems are given, not their advantages), it confuses the majoritarian (non-PR) system of instant runoff voting (IRV, also called by some “ranked choice voting” or RCV) with the fully-proportional Choice Voting system. While there is some similarity between Choice Voting and IRV (both use ranked ballots, both require the voters to rank their choices, and both transfer ballots similarly when eliminating defeated candidates), IRV is used to elect a single winner (either to a city-wide seat, such as Mayor, or to a district-wide seat), whereas Choice Voting is used to elect multiple winners simultaneously. It is the feature of Choice Voting in transferring the surplus votes received by winning candidates that makes it fully proportional.

The column also calls cumulative voting a proportional system; it is not. It is a semi-proportional system in that it allows for, but does not guarantee, proportional results.


There is no perfect electoral system; if there were, everyone would be using it. The choice of an electoral system therefore is a values-based choice. The current system used by Santa Clara allows the majority of the voters, or in some cases just the largest faction, to elect all the city council members, shutting out electoral minorities, ethnic or otherwise. Proportional systems, while still upholding majority rule, guarantee fair representation for electoral minorities, in direct proportion to how people vote.