Emil Guillermo: Georgia's vote for No. 1; in Oakland, No. 2 was good enough

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The Senate Runoff in Georgia has a new mantra. On Tuesday, you just GOTA vote.


Get Out the Asian Vote, at least in Georgia.

If you know someone in that state, remind them that early voting ends on Friday. As I write, more than 1.1 million Georgians have already voted. Once early voting ends, then you’ll have to brave whatever happens on Tuesday, Election Day.

This vote really matters for everyone around the country if you care about our country’s laws and policies.

Same-sex marriage/Interracial marriage. Abortion. DACA/Immigration.


If the incumbent Senator Rafael Warnock wins, it gives Democrats 51 members, a clear majority in the U.S. Senate. VP Kamala Harris wouldn’t be needed to break a tie. That means on every controversial issue, Democrats could more easily get things done. It’s the power and control of a real majority.

And this year, Asian Americans can make it happen.

In the AALDEF exit poll for the Nov. 8 midterms, Asian Americans came out in full support for the Democratic candidate 60.1 percent to 33.3 percent.

That has to hold up in the runoff for Democrats to have an edge in the legislative process. And the politicos know that.

The ad spending is already through the roof. At the start of this week, the booked ad spending from Nov. 9 to Dec.6 was nearly $48 million, with more money yet to come in the final days, according to reports.

Some of that money is directed at us. There are about 133,000 AAPI voters in Georgia with a huge growth burst just within the last few years, based on reported estimates.

For the Warnock campaign, it was the sign of the times. They bought ads translated into Vietnamese, Mandarin, and Korean.

Image by AALDEF

“AAPI Georgians play a critical role in our communities and in our elections. That’s why Reverend Warnock has made it a priority to deliver for Georgia’s AAPI community by lowering health care costs, protecting voting rights, and supporting AAPI-owned small businesses,” Meredith Brasher of the Warnock campaign told The Hill.

Even President Obama has gone to Georgia to make sure people don’t forget that this runoff means something beyond the state.

The Republicans should fear that there aren’t enough nose pins to allow decent Republicans to vote for Walker, the documented philanderer, abortion hypocrite, and Texas resident who wants to represent Georgia.

It doesn’t help Walker that the current Lt. Governor of Georgia, Geoff Duncan, a Republican, couldn’t vote for Walker.

“I was one of those folks who got in line and spent about an hour waiting, and it was the most disappointing ballot I’ve ever stared at in my entire life since I started voting,” Duncan told CNN Thursday morning.

Then he concluded: “I had two candidates that I just couldn’t find anything that made sense for me to put my vote behind, and so I walked out of that ballot box showing up to vote but not voting for either one of them.”

One can’t rely on sensible Republicans. There will be those passing out extra nose pins.

Of course, we wouldn’t have had this problem if ranked choice voting (RCV) was part of Georgia’s process.

The midterm results from Nov. 8 showed Warnock with 49.44 percent of the vote. Legendary football star and Trump supporter Walker had 48.49 percent.

Libertarian Chase Oliver had 2.07 percent of the vote.

No one had a majority with 50.01 percent, and this is where RCV would have been interesting. Who would the Libertarian Oliver’s voters rank as their No. 2?

That would have saved the anguish of a runoff this coming Tuesday, Dec. 6.

But Georgia lawmakers don’t mind taking the time to do it right.

Ever since it’s been used in elections around the country, I’ve been mixed on ranked choice voting (RCV).

But how can you be against a system that’s actually gotten Asian Americans elected?

The most recent is the new mayor of Oakland, CA, Oakland City Council member Sheng Thao, a 37-year-old Asian American Hmong woman who took advantage of ranked choice voting to win.

There were ten people running for mayor, but maybe only half were truly serious candidates. Thao won not because she was the first choice, but because she was the people’s second choice.

Does anyone in America really take pride in being No. 2?

Only when it means you win.

But what if Thao were in a head-to-head battle with her fellow Oakland city council member Loren Taylor?

If democracy is rule by majority, why do we settle for a mere plurality?

It all depends on whose money you’re spending.

RCV is an electoral device that solves the problem when no one wins a majority.

With RCV, Oakland voters marked their ballots ranking ten mayoral candidates. And when no one won a majority, the “other election” began automatically.

When candidate Tyron Jordan was eliminated, his voters named Taylor second (112 votes) rather than Thao (96 votes). That gave Taylor a lead of 1,645 votes.

But it wasn’t over.

As each of the remaining candidates was eliminated (nine rounds total), whoever was named No. 2 picked up their votes.

By round seven, Taylor was ahead by 3,567 votes. It still wasn’t over.

And then a funny thing happened when it was just the top 4, Taylor, Thao, veteran politico Ignacio De La Fuente, and ACLU attorney Allyssa Victory.

In round 8, Victory was eliminated and Thao was named second choice among 8,425 Victory voters.


Taylor was named second choice by just 2,161 voters. But the difference was enough to put Thao in the lead by 2,677 votes over Taylor.

In the ninth and final round, veteran politico De La Fuente was eliminated and most of his voters picked Taylor as their second choice 6,107. Thao picked up 4,112. But it didn’t matter. Thao being named second choice on fourth-place finisher Victory’s ballot was margin enough.

Consider that among the top seven serious candidates, Thao LOST the No.2 vote in all of them to Taylor, except for that landslide she had among Victory voters.

That’s how a democracy works when no one wants to spend the money to figure out a majority in a one-to-one runoff battle.

Oakland saved money but did it get the real vote of the people?

Who would have won if it had been just a head-to-head vote, Taylor and Thao straight up?

We’ll never know. No one wanted to pay for that election.

I have gone back and forth on RCV since its inception. There are good things about it, beyond the savings. It encourages new faces to run and form coalitions. It encourages people to vote you as No.2.

And if you get enough No.2 votes, you can be No.1.

That definitely changes the game. Possibly for the better. RCV can be a positive, enabling diverse participation and for the disenfranchised to get representation. Oakland also uses district elections vs. citywide elections.

But there are times when I begin to have doubts about RCV. Taylor, an African American councilmember and a relative political neophyte like Thao, was seen as a good choice among many. An election under RCV is a different game.

Fortunately, Thao has a good story. She made history. She’s the first Hmong elected mayor of a major U.S. city.

Most importantly, she has a good heart. Homeless 15 years ago, she’s now a renter in Oakland raising a family. She wants to solve crime issues and make Oakland safer. She wants to bring together a divided city.

RCV proves she has a coalition of support to make that happen.

She was the best No. 2. Let’s see if she can become the people’s No.1.

But that’s a local election where the stakes aren’t nearly as high as they are in Georgia.

There, a head-to-head matchup is the only way to decide a winner. This is the real cost of democracy. And both parties are spending millions. A shortcut won’t do.

But democracy only wins on Tuesday if everyone–especially AAPIs–turn out to vote.

NOTE: I will talk about this column and other matters on “Emil Amok’s Takeout,” my AAPI micro-talk show. Live @2p Pacific. Livestream on Facebook; my YouTube channel; and Twitter. Catch the recordings on

Image by AALDEF

Emil Guillermo is an independent journalist/commentator. Updates at Follow Emil on Twitter, and like his Facebook page.

The views expressed in his blog do not necessarily represent AALDEF’s views or policies.

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