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SF Supes Propose Repeal of Ranked-Choice Voting

| November 8, 2011
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Tuesday’s election in San Francisco was the first competitive mayoral race where ranked-choice voting may determine the winner. And, it could be the last.

Voters like Helen Hobbs in the Richmond district say voting by ranked-choice is easy enough…but it doesn’t seem fair.

“If no one gets 50 percent, then the next two highest should just have a runoff,” said Hobbs. “That seems clearer to me than having a ballot with however many candidates there were.”

That’s how it used to be done. And how it could be again, if two San Francisco supervisors have their way.

Not missing the opportunity for symbolism (or at least some good publicity), Supervisors Mark Farrell and Sean Elsbernd, proposed scuttling the ranked-choice voting system used to decide races in the city since 2004.

“Massive numbers of San Franciscans continue to be confused about
our voting process in the city,” Farrell said. Residents “spend so much time thankfully thinking about who to vote for and what to vote for, I don’t think they should be worrying about how to vote.”

The proposal was sharply criticized by Supervisor John Avalos, who is one of 16 candidates running for mayor.

Avalos said he was “stunned” at the proposal of replacing ranked-choice voting, saying bringing it forward on election day “seems like a cheap publicity stunt.”

Avalos later said he would be proposing two separate charter amendments to either keep the current system or slightly tweak it, possibly to allow voters to be able to assign all three of their votes to a single candidate.

John Arntz, Director of Elections for San Francisco, says voters know more about the system now than they did when they approved it in 2002.

“Really, to this point it’s all been people in favor of ranked choice, so the public or the voters have had to rely on what was said about ranked choice. Now, San Franciscans, they have experience with it and they have an informed choice.”

Any of the proposed charter amendments would need the approval of six supervisors to get on the ballot, and the soonest they could reach the ballot would be next June.

Kelly Wilkinson and Bay City News contributed to this post.

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