Some San Franciscans Baffled By Ranked Choice Voting System

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DougSovern20100908_KCBS_0208r Doug Sovern
Doug began his career as a copy boy at the New York Times, and then...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – Next week, San Francisco voters will elect a new mayor with a system many of them still don’t quite understand.

Ranked choice, or instant runoff voting has been used in San Francisco elections for seven years now, yet some people still don’t get it, and even many of those voters who do understand don’t like it. Complaints include that it’s too confusing, and that the person with the highest number of votes doesn’t necessarily win.

Actually, the system is quite simple, insists the man who designed it, Steven Hill, who said that it spares the city from running a runoff election if no one wins an outright majority.

“We ask voters to tell us their runoff choices ahead of time so that we don’t have to come back and set up the polls a second time,” said Hill.

KCBS’ Doug Sovern Reports:

Critics say voters should get to make a clear choice in a runoff between the top two candidates, instead of listing their second and third choices on the ballot in advance. But Hill says runoffs are expensive, negative, and have notoriously low turnouts.

“This second look that voters supposedly want of the candidates in a second election is more theoretical than actual,” said Hill. “Most voters, when you give them a second election, don’t show up.”

Despite the national outcry when second-place Jean Quan upset frontrunner Don Perata in the Oakland Mayor’s race, Hill says ranked choice works, and recent races in San Francisco prove it.

“It seems like it’s doing quite well because we have a much more diverse board than we’ve ever had,” said Hill. “People are getting representation and saving a lot of money, candidates don’t have to raise money for two elections. I think the benefits of it are pretty clear.”

Voters, and candidates hope the results will be pretty clear in next week’s election.

(Copyright 2011 by CBS San Francisco. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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