[EM] Report on the 2008 San Francisco RCV elections

Abd ul-Rahman Lomax abd at lomaxdesign.com
Wed Jan 7 19:55:33 PST 2009

I took a preliminary look at the November 2008 San Francisco RCV elections.

There were 7 Supervisors elected. 3 elections found a majority in the 
first round.

In the remaining four, no majority was found after transfers, I 
haven't looked at all of them in detail, but one was on the order of 40%.

In no case did the first preference leader fail to win.

This is seems to be typical of nonpartisan IRV. So far, no comeback 
elections, excepting a partisan election in Pierce County, 
Washington, out of what must be approaching forty elections.

This appears to be normal: most of the time, when a majority isn't 
found in the first round, no majority is found after vote transfers 
(except for the "last round majority," which isn't a majority of the 
votes and is a mathematical certainty from the method, which 
essentially discards all votes which aren't for the top two).

Further, in nonpartisan elections, the preference order in the first 
round tends to be maintained after transfers. No reversals have been 
seen. In Top Two Runoff elections, reversal takes place roughly 
one-third of the time.

I have the ballot image files for the "instant runoffs" from San 
Francisco. Rather irritatingly, they don't have the files available 
from the districts where there was a first round majority; but those 
results might be in the overall result file that I also have, I 
haven't looked at it yet.

San Francisco could have replaced their prior TTR system with 
Plurality; the results would have remained the same. However, 
previously, there were comeback elections where the runner-up did 
win. IRV eliminates that, in nonpartisan elections, almost entirely. 
I say "almost" not because I've seen an exception, but because the 
vote gaps do reduce, sometimes, and in a very close election, a 
"comeback" could occur. It's clearly rare with IRV.

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