Move to kill ranked-choice voting begins before Election Day ends

Even before the Election Day is over, Supervisor Mark Farrell has introduced a charter amendment for the June 5 ballot that would eliminate ranked-choice voting and revert back to the system of a run-off election if no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote.

Farrell sharply criticized ranked-choice voting and said it is not working. It confuses voters and results in elected officials winning without the majority of votes, he said.

Voters themselves adopted the ranked-choice system when they approved Proposition A in March 2002.

“The unintended consequences continue to pile up election after election,” Farrell said. “It’s time to stop that. Now almost a decade later massive numbers of San Franciscans continue to be confused about our voting process in The City.”

Mayoral candidate Supervisor John Avalos blasted Farrell for what he called a “cheap publicity stunt.” He said the proposal “smacks of rabid zealousness” and that it was “very crass” to do before the tally of the votes for the mayor’s race were counted, which is seen as San Francisco’s first real test of the system in a citywide election.

Supervisor Sean Elsbernd, who is a co-sponsor of the charter amendment, was critical of Avalos’ for taking “shots at one another” during the time when colleagues introduce legislation. Elsbernd said there is plenty of analysis already on the record: “Nine of the 11 supervisors sitting here have been elected with less than a majority of the vote. That’s fact.” Elsbernd said. He added: “Whoever is elected mayor today will be elected without a majority of the vote.”

For the charter amendment to make it onto the June ballot it would take at least six votes from the board.

Avalos countered the proposal by requesting the city attorney draft other charter amendments, including one that would keep in place the existing ranked-choice system and another that would modify ranked-choice voting, such as by allowing a voter to vote for the same candidate three times.

Advocates of ranked-choice voting say it’s best because it eliminates a costly run off election and avoids a December runoff election when less voters show up to vote.

Under the current ranked-choice voting system, voters vote for not only who they want to win the most but also their second and third choice. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the votes then that candidate wins. If not, the candidate who received the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and the second-choice votes for that eliminated candidate are then redistributed. The elimination of last-place candidates and factoring in second- and third-place choices continues until a candidate picks up 50 percent plus one of the votes.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com

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