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Closer Look: Criticism Mounting Over Ranked Choice Voting

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(Roberto Schmidt/AFP/Getty Images)

SAN FRANCISCO (CBS SF) – Ranked choice voting is not without its critics or champions. Those in favor of the practice claim it saves money, decreases negative campaigning and brings out more voters to the polls.

That wasn’t the case in the most recent mayoral election in San Francisco, where only 40% of registered voters turned out. It was the lowest voter turnout in 36 years. The Bay Area has voted in over 50 rank choice voting elections, and over a dozen of those have resulted in a rank choice candidate election.

Nearly all of those dozen or so candidates did not receive a majority vote. For many opponents of the system, those numbers don’t add up.

“A decade or more ago, when ranked choice voting was proposed, it was going to do all of these great things,” said Terry Reilly, former chairman of Campaign Finance review in San Jose. “It was going to give you unicorns and rainbows. But over the past decade, you have seen from the results that is doesn’t live up to its promises.”

Ranked choice critics like Reilly also have said that the method discriminates against certain classes of voters like minorities, non-English speakers, and individuals from disadvantaged socio-economic backgrounds.

Other critics have claimed the process is too complicated. Over the years, lawsuits have been filed contesting the legitimacy of ranked choice voting. Minority groups like the NAACP have also expressed concern over whether or not it discriminates against people of color.

Still, those who study ranked choice voting argue that all elections can have problems, regardless of the voting system being used.

“That is true of any voting system. There are elections that are better suited for some voting systems than others,” said Corey Cook, Director of the Leo McCarthy Center for the Common Good. “This is not an argument for repeal or not, but there are clearly elections that…would have really worked better on a different voting system.”

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 This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.)

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