Politics

San Francisco Supervisors Propose Repeal of Ranked-Choice Voting

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Ballot Machine (AP)

BarbaraTaylor_KCBS_0001r Barbara Taylor
Barbara Taylor is the long time San Francisco City Hall Bureau Chief...
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SAN FRANCISCO (KCBS) – A charter amendment proposal was introduced at San Francisco City Hall Tuesday which would put an end to the city’s experiment with ranked-choice voting.

Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell proposed the repeal, describing ranked-choice voting as a failed experiment, as evidenced by the number of candidates – even Elsbernd himself – who were elected to office without a majority vote.

“In my first election in 2004, of the total votes cast, only 47 percent of the voters actually marked me first, second or third,” he recounted.

KCBS’ Barbara Taylor Reports:

He predicted a similar outcome in Tuesday’s mayoral race.

Even Mayor Ed Lee said voters have told him they don’t understand how to vote, or how their vote would be counted.

Ranked-choice voting was introduced as a way to save the city money by avoiding any runoffs, but Elsbernd worries that democracy has suffered as a result.

To put the issue back on the ballot, six supervisors would have to support the repeal.

Just how likely is it that ranked-choice voting will be scrapped in San Francisco? According to political insider Phil Matier, it actually has a fair amount to do with Jean Quan being declared winner in Oakland’s ranked choice mayoral contest.

“There’s questions raised about it because she’s sort of the poster child for what may be right and wrong with ranked-choice voting,” theorized Matier. “Jean Quan’s problem isn’t that she’s mayor of Oakland. It’s that she’s having a rough go of it…and people are looking back and saying ‘I don’t quite understand how she got elected mayor.’ Don Perata got more first place votes, but somehow she wound up winning when second and third place votes were counted in rank choice.”

KCBS and Chronicle Insider Phil Matier Reports:

“The point is that, with any election system that we have, you’re going to find flaws. It raises questions about the viability of the candidate that wins. If Ed Lee wins today (in San Francisco’s mayoral race) with 35 percent of the first place votes, but everybody’s second and thirds, people will go ‘okay, he won but he doesn’t really have a mandate’ because of the way the system works,” continued Matier.

“If, on the other hand, he gets 35 percent or 25 percent of the first place votes and somebody squeaks around him with second and third, people are going to say ‘I don’t get that.'”

(© 2011 CBS Broadcasting Inc. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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