The Once and Future Mayor

Thursday, March 14th, 2019

In 2015, Jasiel Correia was elected mayor of Fall River, Massachusetts at the tender age of 23. He earned a second term in 2017, garnering 61% of the vote. However, in the fall of 2018, Correia was arrested on charges of wire fraud and filing false tax returns. Fall River’s City Council urged him to resign, and when he failed to do so, they called a recall election.

So far, this reads as the relatively straight-forward story of a politician who may be guilty of some crimes. It’s unpleasant, but not altogether uncommon. However, the results of Tuesday’s election are really something to see. Here’s how it worked out:

Should Jasiel Correia be recalled from the office of mayor?

Yes: 7,829 (61.5%)
No: 4,911 (38.5%)

Assuming the mayor is recalled, who should be elected mayor?

Jasiel Correia: 4,808 (35.5%)
Paul Coogan: 4,567 (33.7%)
Joseph D. Camara: 1,971 (14.6%)
Kyle Riley: 1,460 (10.8%)
Erica Scott-Pacheco: 740 (5.5%)

In a single election, Jasiel Correia was both recalled from office, and then re-elected to that same office. There are many questions here, like “Why is a mayor facing recall also allowed to run on the new ballot?” and “Did 103 voters feel Correia should not be recalled, but then also go on to vote for someone else?”.1 Correia will face another election in the fall against a single opponent, and it seems probable he’ll lose that contest. Worse, he may well find himself in prison before then as well. For the moment, however, a great deal of time, energy, and money was spent on this election, and the only change is that Fall River now looks rather foolish.

To close on a serious note, this is a prime example of why ranked-choice voting is a superior system for elections. Almost two-thirds of voters wanted someone other than Correia to be mayor, and yet he won. That is a very flawed system, and ranked-choice voting is one very powerful fix for it. Learn the basics with this helpful video. If you’re in Massachusetts, check out Voter Choice MA for more information.


Footnotes:

  1. The tallies show that the new election had 806 more voters than the recall itself, and it’s impossible to know exactly what any voters were thinking. What is clear is that more people voted for the current mayor to stay in office/against the recall than voted for him to be chosen mayor. Perhaps some of the 4911 “No” votes in question #1 were protest votes against the recall process itself, rather than in support of the mayor.↩︎


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