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Palm Desert deploys ‘ranked choice voting’ on November ballots, so how does it work?

The city of Palm Desert is introducing a new way to vote for city council this November, called "ranked choice voting."

It's a move advocates push as a more equitable form of voting but opponents cast as unnecessarily confusing.

Palm Desert is the seventh California city to adopt ranked choice voting, alongside San Francisco, Oakland, Berkeley and others. But it's the first city in Riverside County to do so.

Ranked choice voting, also known as an instant runoff, allows voters to rank candidates in order of their preference: first, second, third and so on.

"This assures if a voter's first choice candidate cannot win, that voter's backup choice may be considered," says an informational video from the city.

Visit for more information.

Palm Desert City Clerk Anthony Mejia said ranked choice voting gives voters more voting power.

"Now, if they want to select a candidate that they don't believe will necessarily win, they don't have to worry that their vote is being wasted... Ultimately, if that candidate is eliminated through the process, their vote will have a backup," Mejia said. "They can choose as few or as many as of the candidates as they would like to rank on the ballot."

City of Palm Desert

In 2019, Palm Desert shifted to two voting districts in response to a lawsuit claiming the city was violating the California Voting Rights Act and minorities weren't being equally represented.

Palm Desert Council Member Karina Quintanilla is the city's lone representative for District 1, which holds about 20 percent of the city's population and surrounds the Civic Center. It is a concentrated area for Latino residents.

District 2, which encompasses the rest of the city, elects four council members. Two of those seats are up for election this November.

"I see the two districts going eventually to five," Quintanilla said.

Quintanilla said democracy to her is achieving greater participation in elections, something she said using ranked choice voting will help achieve.

"You have the ability to have your values reflected not just with two votes, but what the consensus of the community's values are," she said.

Palm Desert officials said they are working to educate voters by sending materials out and offering community meeting presentations.

Also on the ballot this November in Palm Desert is Measure B: asking whether there should be five districts in the city instead of two.

But that measure is only an advisory one, which means voters will speak but it is ultimately up to the council what they decide.

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Jake Ingrassia

Joining News Channel 3 and CBS Local 2 as a reporter, Jake is excited to be launching his broadcasting career here in the desert. Learn more about Jake here.


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