Friday, November 19, 2021

Eureka Council Moves Forward Ranked Choice Voting, New Ward Maps

Posted By on Fri, Nov 19, 2021 at 12:25 PM

The Eureka City Council cast unanimous votes on two election-related items this week, including a major change to the way residents in Humboldt County’s largest city select their representatives.

At Tuesday night’s meeting, the council moved forward what’s known as ranked choice voting by introducing an ordinance to implement the method supported by Eureka voters in November of 2020 when they passed Measure C with 61 percent of the vote.

Ranked choice essentially works like an instant runoff by allowing voters to rank candidates by preference. For example, in a three-person race, a voter would order the candidates as their first, second or third choice.

If any candidate were to receive a majority of "first" designations, the process ends there. However, if that doesn't happen, the person with the fewest "first" votes is out of the race and anyone who voted for them would have their second choice selection counted.

The process continues from there until one candidate takes a majority of the votes in the mayor and council races only and will not apply to county, state or federal offices, or to any ballot measures.

The ordinance directs Assistant City Manager/City Clerk Pam Powell, who serves as the city’s election official, to work with the Humboldt County Registrar of Voters to implement ranked choice voting for the November of 2022 election “if that implementation is feasible.”

The seats for wards 1, 3 and 5 — currently held by Leslie Castellano, Natalie Arroyo and Kim Bergel, respectively — as well as the position of mayor, currently held by Susan Seaman, are up for election next November.

The ordinance also states that ranked choice voting “will commence not later than the 2024 General Municipal Election and continue thereafter for all general municipal elections.”

On a related front, the council also moved forward with minor changes to ward boundaries, a process commenced every 10 years after the federal government publishes census data to ensure the populations of the wards are evenly distributed, a process also happening on the county and state level.

None of the current councilmember’s seats are impacted by the proposed changes, which will come back for final review at the Dec. 7 council meeting.

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Kimberly Wear

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Kimberly Wear is the assistant editor of the North Coast Journal.

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