[EM] Fwd: RCV in SF

Kathy Dopp kathy.dopp at gmail.com
Mon Dec 15 09:02:20 PST 2008

The New America Foundation is now pushing for IRV, esp. in Los
Angeles, and is apparently funding the IRV work of Steven Hill.

Instant Runoff Voting for Los Angeles

Perhaps informed people who have time may want to write the Board
members of The New Am. Foundation to educate them that they are being
misled on the facts.  Founding president is Ted Halstead. The
institute is now led by President and CEO Steve Coll and an
outstanding Board of Directors, chaired by Eric Schmidt.

---------- Forwarded message ----------
From:  <mrplutocrat at aol.com>
Date: Mon, Dec 15, 2008 at 5:49 AM
Subject: [voting-rights] RCV in SF
To: voting-rights at yahoogroups.com

From:  Steven Hill, New America Foundation

Dear friends, I thought you would enjoy this oped published on Tuesday in
the San Francisco Chronicle, "Report card for ranked-choice voting." It
passed quietly without notice that if we hadn't used using ranked choice
voting in November's election, San Francisco would have been voting this
past Tuesday in a December runoff election for four seats on the Board of
Supervisors. Following a high turnout November election with a presidential
race on the ballot, voter turnout would have plummeted; candidates and their
supporters would have needed to raise tens of thousands of dollars more for
the second election; and independent expenditures would have shot through
the roof. Instead, the November RCV election resulted in the most
representative Board of Supervisors in the history of San Francisco, with
seven out of 11 members being racial/ethnic minorities. Read on for more

Report card for ranked choice voting
Steven Hill
Tuesday, December 9, 2008
San Francisco Chronicle

What are you doing today? How would you like to be voting in runoff
elections for the Board of Supervisors? That's what many would be doing if
San Francisco hadn't voted in 2002 to replace the old December runoff system
with an "instant runoff" system known as ranked choice voting.

Whether using ranked choice voting or December runoffs, the goal is the
same: to elect officeholders with majority support from the public. But with
ranked-choice voting, you accomplish this in one November election.

We now have had five elections since 2004 using ranked-choice voting to
elect the mayor, Board of Supervisors and other offices, providing some
basis for assessing its impact. One significant difference between ranked
choice and the old December runoff has been a dramatic increase in voter
turnout. By finishing the election in November when voter turnout tends to
be highest (because voters are showing up to vote for president or
governor), a lot more San Franciscans are having a say in who represents
them on the Board of Supervisors.

For example, this year in the District Three race, 22,407 voters
participated in the final round of the instant runoff, with the winner of
that race having 13,316 votes. In the December 2000 runoff election to
decide the same District Three seat, only 12,414 voters participated, with
the winner garnering 7,202 votes. Voter turnout dropped by 40 percent
between the November 2000 election and the December runoff, and surely would
have done the same this year following a high turnout presidential election.

Instead, in all supervisorial races in 2008 the number of voters
participating in the ranked-choice voting races was much higher than in
previous December runoff elections, even when accounting for higher turnout
in the 2008 presidential election over the 2000 presidential election.

San Francisco taxpayers also are saving millions of dollars by not holding a
separate runoff election in December. Based on numbers released in 2003 by
the Elections Commission, it costs at least $3 million to administer each
citywide election.

With ranked-choice voting, San Francisco avoided a citywide December runoff
for assessor-recorder in 2005, as well as for 10 supervisorial races from
2004 thru 2008. That means approximately $6 million in savings on
administrative costs, as well as several hundred thousand dollars more saved
on the costs of public financing for supervisor runoffs. A couple million
dollars have been spent on voting equipment and education to implement
ranked choice voting, but that has more than paid for itself. While
democracy shouldn't have a price tag, there is no point in spending money
needlessly on two elections when you can finish the job in one.

In terms of representation, the Board of Supervisors that was just elected
via ranked-choice voting will be the most representative in the history of
San Francisco. Seven out of 11 members are racial/ethnic minorities, three
are women, the gay community is represented, and there is a range of
ideological viewpoints.

Statistical analysis also shows that voters are handling the task of ranking
their candidates. In 2008, San Francisco voters on average used 2.3 of their
3 rankings, with voters in the highly competitive races using slightly more,
2.5. That means most voters are using all three of their rankings, while
some use only two rankings and a few only one ranking.

The number of overvotes - ballots where voters picked more candidates than
they are allowed, rendering them invalid - is a good measure of voter
confusion. Overvotes occur in all races, even for president or state
Assembly when some voters erroneously vote for more than one candidate.
While the rate of overvotes in ranked choice voting races is a bit higher
than in non-ranked-choice races, it still has been low, generally less than
1 percent of voters.

Several exit polls have been conducted asking voters their opinions about
ranked choice voting. The most thorough of these, conducted by San Francisco
State University, found that 87 percent of those polled said they understood
ranked choice voting, while 61 percent preferred it over the old runoff
system (only 13 percent preferred the December runoffs, while 27 percent
said it made no difference).

Certainly there is room for improvement, but by any objective measurement
San Francisco has taken to ranked-choice voting elections, and is leading
the nation in this important reform.

Steven Hill is director of the Political Reform Program at the New America
Foundation and author of "10 Steps to Repair American Democracy"

This article appeared on page B - 7 of the San Francisco Chronicle

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