Low turnout could have rippling effects

Voter turnout for this mayoral election was dismal, with arough estimate of 109,000 voters going to polls.

The number is preliminary, according to Department of Elections Director John Arntz, and it fails to include absentee and provisional ballots delivered Tuesday. It is one of the lowest turnouts in The City’s history.

The low turnout in a mayoral election could have serious implications for the future of San Francisco politics.According to the City Charter, the number of voters in a mayoral election determines how many signatures are required for an initiative to be placed on ballots for the next four years.

For this election, petitions needed 10,396 signatures to get on the ballot — 5 percent of the vote cast for all mayoral candidates in 2003. For the next four years, proponents will need roughly 5,500 signatures if the election turnout numbers hold up, meaning future ballots could become clogged with legislation.

Despite the low turnout, San Franciscans didn’t quite outdo themselves as far as civil irresponsibility goes.

In November 2001, less than 30 percent of voters came out to the polls, and about half that number showed up for the subsequent runoff in December, making 75,267 people the lowest voter turnout in San Francisco since 1960, when those numbers were first posted.

In that runoff election, Dennis Herrera won the office of city attorney against challenger Jim Lazarus. Voter apathy helped spur the ranked-choice voting initiative The City uses now instead of costly runoffs.

This election, 419,599 people were registered in San Francisco by the October deadline — a 9 percent drop from the last mayoral election.

bbegin@examiner.com

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