Archives for posts with tag: Fullerton Elections


Matthew Leslie

In November Fullerton held its first ever City Council elections by district. Three candidates appeared on the ballot for 3rd District voters, where Jesus Silva prevailed with 53.5%, a majority of the vote.

But in the 5th District, as in many past city-wide council elections with many candidates running, the winner had only a plurality of support. Ahmad Zahra fin- ished first in a field of five candidates with 33.1% of the vote.

Congratulations are due to both candidates on their hard-fought campaign victories, but across the city, county and country many voters are asking whether or not a “winner take all system” where candidates are elected to office with less than half of the votes in a given election is the most democratic way to hold elections.

In some cities, candidates have been elected with small percentages of the vote—sometimes less than 10%—simply because there has been a crowded field of candidates in a race. Had there been more candidates in the District 3 election, it seems doubtful that any of them would have crossed the 50% threshold.

In 2016’s combined at-large election none of the three candidates who won seats on the City Council had even 20% of the vote. In a field of thirteen candidates, Jennifer Fitzgerald received 17.2%, Bruce Whitaker received 14.5%, and Jesus Silva 14.4%.

Some local voters have suggested that a runoff ought to be held to ensure that no one is elected without receiving a majority of the vote, but runoff elections are expensive, both for the city and the candidate, and simply extend the campaign season, making it even more costly to run for office.
How about an instant runoff built right into the voting process used for a single general election? It’s called Ranked Choice Voting (or sometimes Instant Runoff Voting), and it’s been used effectively by municipalities in countries around the world, by private organizations (like the Academy Awards), by many colleges and universities, and even, in some cases, by the U.S. military.
According to Fair Vote, Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is currently used in some form for government elections in cities in six U.S. states, including Berkeley and Oakland, CA, Santa Fe, NM, Telluride, CO, and Minneapolis and St. Paul, MN. RCV has been adopted, and is awaiting implementation, in cities or counties in four additional states, including Memphis, TN, Las Cruces, NM, Amherst, MA, and Benton County, Oregon.

In 2018 Maine became the first state to use RCV for government elections statewide, includ- ing for U.S. Senate and Congress. Six other states use RCV for military and overseas voters.
RCV is being adopted by more and more municipalities because it offers a superior system to the winner- take-all elections we settle for now, where candidates can be elected with a small minority of support simply because so many candidates choose to enter a given race. The concept of ranking candidates is simple: instead of only getting to choose a single candidate from a list of several on a ballot, voters can rank their choices from “1” to however many candidates there are in the race (or stop at a lower number, if they choose).

If a single candidate is ranked “1” by more than half of the voters in the elec- tion, that candidate automatically wins, much like the current method used in Orange County primary elections.

But, if no candidate receives over half the vote, instead of having to schedule a separate runoff election RCV has a runoff built right into the system.

In an RCV election, the candidate with the least amount of number “1” rankings is eliminated from the race. Anyone who ranked that candidate as “1” will have their number “2” choice counted instead.

This process of eliminating candidates continues until a candidate has votes that total over half, or “50% plus one.”

Ultimately, the winner either has more than half of the electorate’s support out- right, or accrues it through rounds of counting votes where that candidate may have been the second, third, etc. choice of a voter whose first or second choice had little chance of prevailing in the end. (The threshold for winning can even be set at a higher or lower percentage of the vote, but for our purposes, over 50% is sufficient.)

A simple demonstration of how RCV works can be found at this link:

Ranked Choice Voting in Fullerton elections would be likely to result in:


•Better representation of the will of the voters. If voters are allowed to rank their candidates from best to worst, their votes will actually count for something, even if their most preferred candidate doesn’t fin- ish at the top of the list. It’s like having a runoff without an extra election.

•Less negative campaigning. Even though a candidate might know that some voters are likely to back one of their oppo- nents, they will still want those voters to consider them for their second or third choice, which will discourage candidates from running negative campaigns against one another, potentially alienating an opponent’s supporters.

•Eliminate the “spoiler factor.” With RCV there is less pressure to keep people from running for office for fear that they will “draw votes away” from another can- didate, and less incentive to intentionally run candidates for the same purpose. Voters can vote their consciences, even if they don’t think their first choice has the
best chance to win, because their second choice might be a candidate they don’t care for quite as much, but who they may think has a better chance of winning.

•Diversify funding by big donors. Big funders like the developers and the police and fire unions can’t afford to put all of their eggs in one basket, meaning they will have to spread their money around to support multiple candidates, leveling the playing field.

•Encouraging grassroots support of candidates by forcing them to appeal to a greater number of voters. Instead of settling for electing people with 40%, 30%, or even 20% or less support with our current system, Ranked Choice Voting would allow voters a more inclusive, more representative way of electing people to our City Council. The Fullerton City Council should place RCV on the ballot of the next election to allow voters to decide whether or not to adopt it for City Council elections in the future.


Is $ 23,432.00 Big Money to you?

One of the most well-financed campaigns in the 2016 contest for Fullerton City Council is not who you think it is, and the money behind is coming from way outside of Fullerton…

The Fullerton Observer’s new video channel has posted  a series of interviews with candidates running for the three open seats on the Fullerton City Council this year. Among the candidates is Jonathan Mansoori, a young, political newcomer who describes himself as a community organizer and former schoolteacher.

One of the questions asked of each candidate in the Fullerton Observer videos is “Who Are Your Top Campaign Donors?” Mr. Mansoori responds to this question  (3:04 in the video) with the following statement: “My mom, several friends and some of my family are my top donors. I’m not receiving any big money.”

A cursory look at his campaign’s financial filings easily belies his claim. His Form 460 covering the period of time between July 1 – December 21, 2105 does show a single contribution of $ 500.00 from his mother, but it also shows a $ 2,000.00 from something called Leadership for Educational Equity California, a political action committee (we’ll call it LEEC-PAC). “Big money?” I’d say so, but perhaps it depends on how big “big” is. But, he did say that his biggest contributors were his friends and family…


$ 2,000.00 from LEEC-PAC..

In his next required filing, covering the period between January 1 – June 30, 2016, is another $ 2,000.00 contribution from LEEC-PAC, bringing the total through the end of the 2016 fiscal year to $ 4,000.00—eight times the amount given to him by his next highest donor (to that date). Most people would consider that much to be “big money” in a city council election.


…and another $ 2,000.00…

Things get quite a bit more interesting on page 6 of his first pre-election filing, covering the period of July 1 – September 24, 2016, where we find two more donations from LEEC-PAC. The first is for the odd, but eye-popping amount of $ 6,432.00, and the second is for a whopping $ 15,000.00!


…and another $ 21,432.00 from the same mysterious PAC!

In 2016 alone Jonathan Mansoori’s campaign received $ 23,432.00 from LEEC-PAC. Adding the $ 2,000.00 from LEEC-PAC in 2015 brings their contributions to $ 25,642. This is BIG MONEY, and it isn’t coming from anywhere in Fullerton. Beyond just the staggering amount of money given to Jonathan Mansoori’s Fullerton City Council campaign, we must consider his astonishing claim in the Fullerton Observer video that he isn’t receiving any “big money,” and that his family and friends are his biggest contributors, despite the fact that all of the contributions from LEEC-PAC are listed as having been received prior to the recording of the video in September of this year. Such an obviously false claim on the part of a candidate cannot go unexamined.

Who is LEEC-PAC, and why are they giving such a huge amount of money to a relatively unknown candidate for a moderately sized city council race? Who else in Fullerton has been the recipient of LEEC-PAC’s largesse? More in Part 2…

Lines will be drawn...

Lines will be drawn…

Exclusive ! (..?)


According to Attorney Kevin L. Shenkman, representing former city council candidate Vivian “Kitty” Jaramillo in her lawsuit against the City of Fullerton, a measure to establish district elections for the Fullerton City Council will be put before the Fullerton electorate in 2016. Although the City of Fullerton does not seem to have released any details about the settlement, Mr. Shenkman was happy to discuss the agreement during a presentation on the subject of district elections sponsored by the political action committee Neighbors United for Fullerton (NUFF) on Monday night. The ballot measure will reportedly preserve a five member city council, each of whom will be elected exclusively within single districts in which they reside. Pre-established district boundaries will be part of the measure as it will appear on the ballot. If approved, elections by district are expected to begin in 2018, although it remains unclear which districts would be the first in play during that election. Term limits, adopted by Fullerton voters in 2010, would not be affected..

District boundaries will reportedly be determined following input received by residents during a dozen public meetings to be held throughout the city during the coming year. Mr. Shenkman also explained that the lawsuit technically continues, but will be on hold until it is known whether or not the ballot measure has passed successfully. If the district elections plan is not passed by the voters, the plaintiff is expected to continue to seek redress, possibly in the form of another district election plan. Payment of legal fees for the suit (and, presumably the simultaneous suit bought by the ACLU) have yet to be determined.

During the most recent City Council meeting of May 5, the attending City Attorney had only the most opaque report from the closed session where the case was considered, immediately preceding the public meeting:  ‘Regarding the lawsuits of Jaramillo vs. Fullerton and Paik vs. Fullerton, a motion was made by Mayor Pro Tem Fitzgerald, seconded by Council Member Flory to approve the final terms of the settlement agreement covering both cases, which motion passed by a 4-1 vote, with Council Member Whitaker voting “No.”  The final form of the settlement agreement will be available upon execution by all parties.’

Ms. Jaramillo’s lawsuit alleges that the city’s current method of electing at-large council members “impairs the ability of certain races to elect candidates of their choice or influence the outcome of elections conducted in the city of Fullerton.” The second suit, bought by the ACLU on behalf of Jonathan Paik, similarly alleges that, under the California Voting Rights Act of 2001, ethnic minorities in the city are effectively denied representation on the Fullerton City Council. The suits mirror others filed against cities throughout the state, all of which, according to the presenters from the NUFF forum on Monday, have been successful in instituting district elections, although individual cities have adopted different plans to address these grievances. Fullerton’s neighboring city of Buena Park, for example, is reportedly set to adopt a district elections plan directly, without waiting for approval by the voters.

At this time it is unclear why the City of Fullerton has not issued a public statement about the plan, which would represent the most profound change in the city’s election process since it was founded over a century ago, and why it falls to a modest local editorial website to break the story.

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