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NAACP seeks Oakland mayor's race recount amid criticism of ranked-choice voting

NAACP seeks Oakland mayor's race recount amid criticism of ranked-choice voting
NAACP seeks Oakland mayor's race recount amid criticism of ranked-choice voting 02:35

OAKLAND – The race to elect a new mayor in the City of Oakland was decided by a razor-thin margin.

Now, the Oakland branch of the NAACP says there should be a recount, not to change the outcome, but to get a better understanding of how little voters understand the city's ranked-choice voting system.

Ranked-choice voting was promoted in Oakland as a way to save money, eliminating the need for costly run-off elections.  But opponents say it's also sowing mistrust of the voting process, especially in minority communities.

"You can talk about us!  You can say whatever you want to say about us!  But we're going to fight to the end!" Cynthia Adams, president-elect of the Oakland NAACP at a news conference Tuesday.

With a group of seniors in attendance, the civil rights group issued their demand for a recount after Councilmember Sheng Thao edged out Councilmember Loren Taylor, in a mayoral election that was decided by only 677 votes.

The NAACP said Alameda County wants to charge them $21,000 to do it.

"Just a recount to see what was missing--was there something wrong? That's all we're asking for," said Adams. "We're asking for the county and the city to pay for it."

But the bigger issue is the city's ranked-choice voting system. One of the unsuccessful mayoral candidates, Seneca Scott, said it's not about who won, but about how the process worked.

In the election, voters were asked to list their top five choices in order of preference. "Overvotes" occur when someone selects the same candidate twice and those votes are disqualified.  Scott said that affected about 3,000 votes in the election.

"When we're looking at the data," Scott told KPIX, "it looked like a lot of people, who clearly intended to vote a certain way, had their ballots tossed for overvotes because they made a mistake. And these mistakes trend in disenfranchised, marginalized communities."

The NAACP also said about 11,000 ballots were reported as "exhausted," meaning they didn't include all five choices. They believe that's an indication of how poorly the community understands the process.

Bishop Bob Jackson of Acts Full Gospel Church said the complexity of the system is leading to confusion and mistrust.

"It's not working for them, because the education on how it works, how you put it together, and the's just so different than how we were used to voting, where the one who got the majority of the votes won the election," said Bishop Jackson.  "I think we need to get rid of ranked-choice voting once and for all."

The NAACP said while a recount may not change the outcome, it could shine some light on the problem and force officials to do a better job educating the voters.

The Alameda County Registrar's office did not respond to multiple requests for comment on this story.

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