Letters to the Editor
The more I talk with family and friends, the more I hear certain repeated concerns about Alameda. The most repeated and talked about are:
It’s time to end the safe street program. People just drive around the barriers now creating a more dangerous situation and it is time to return to our normal traffic flow.
Parklet eyesores. Many of the parklets on Webster and Park streets look like they were assembled with scrapyard junk. The white bollards to ‘help’ define the on-street parking are now black, run over and bent horizontal. Time for better looking parklets and a cleaner Webster and Park streets.
Now is not the time to spend money and effort changing a street design. Please spend money and energy fixing the hundreds of Potholes in the city. The potholes affect all citizens whereas a redesigned single street only affects a few.
I’m sure there are other issues, but these three I hear from more people more often. Can we just get back to raising Alameda’s standards?
Last December, Hunter Cobb warned us about the “bad actors” of the voting process: mail-in ballots, early voting, drop boxes, etc (“Dog whistler,” Dec. 22, 2022). Now Cobb claims that ranked choice voting (RCV) is responsible for “the recent screw-up,” and imagines that proponents of RCV have “scurried into their hidey-holes.” I think Cobb has fallen further into the rabbit hole (“Ranked choice voting created a mess,” Feb. 16).
It’s unfortunate that many conservatives assume there are serious problems if their candidates lose elections. Donald Trump, and a majority of Republicans, still claim that Barack Obama and President Joe Biden won by fraud. To use Cobb’s term, there have been “screw-ups” in elections, even when the system has been set up exactly as Cobb prefers. But Cobb won’t let a little crisis go to waste; he’s doubling down on his warnings about RCV. Not only is RCV prone to “bad actor manipulation,” as he said in December; it’s also hopelessly confusing.
If Cobb thinks that Alameda voters are too stupid to understand RCV, maybe he’s right. But consider this: Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, and Scotland, as well as Alaska, Maine, and more than 50 U.S. cities use RCV. Oakland, Berkeley, and San Leandro have been using it since 2010. RCV keeps growing in popularity. Perhaps Cobb will say that RCV is growing because of a liberal conspiracy to steal more elections from conservatives.
It’s awfully rich for Cobb to conclude his letter with a quote from California Gov. Gavin Newsom. Politics makes strange bedfellows.
Ranked-choice voting has not created a mess in Oakland, as asserted by letter writer Hunter Cobb (https://alamedasun.com/letters/16614,” Feb. 16). The only mess is the misinformation.
The mistake in Oakland’s 2022 school board election was caused by a human error, not by the voting method. Humans at the Registrar of Voters office did not program the computer correctly, which led to the wrong candidate being declared the winner. He has since dropped out, and the matter is being resolved.
The Oakland NAACP became involved not over the voting method, but rather because they believe the county should pay for recounts in close elections, as was the case in Oakland’s mayor’s race.
Advocates for ranked-choice voting have not gone into hiding following the November 2022 election, as the letter writer asserts. The Alameda League of Women Voters is continuing its educational efforts on this voting method. The mayor of Albany, Aaron Tiedemann, touted the successful use of ranked choice voting in Albany for the first time in the November 2022 election. “Five candidates ran [for city council], two people of color were elected and more than two-thirds of voters cast a vote for a winning candidate,” wrote Tiedemann in a commentary that appeared in the East Bay Times on January 14, 2023. “Albany’s final tally used the correct counting method that the registrar neglected to use in Oakland.” And the voting method’s popularity continues to grow around the country, despite misinformation being repeated.
It is well documented that voters find ranked-choice voting easy to use. Making a list in order of preference is not confusing. To the extent there was voter confusion in Oakland, although debatable, you might fault the city clerk for declining the Registrar’s offer of extra educational materials to be distributed to voters and for deciding to give voters five rankings on the ballot rather than ten rankings for all ten candidates running for mayor. These issues can easily be addressed for the next election.
Cobb points to an “Election Integrity Team of Alameda County” to back up his position. This small group of individuals is similar to the “Stop the Steal” crowd. They caused a ruckus at the Registrar of Voters office and insinuate that ranked-choice advocacy groups are just pawns of billionaire George Soros.
With so much public scrutiny of Oakland’s election results, the computer programming error is unlikely to happen again. Human errors can affect all elections, both single-choice and ranked-choice. The vote tabulation mistake in Oakland should be an opportunity for Alameda County and its vendors to develop and implement additional best practices for future elections.
Editor’s note: Contributing writer Richard Bangert posts stories and photos on his blog Alameda Point Environmental Report https://alamedapointenviro.com.