When the Department of Elections certified results of San Francisco’s municipal election on Nov. 19, I wanted to sympathize with our so-called “consensus Mayor” Ed Lee. I dredged the barrel, but couldn’t find a drop of sympathy.
Lee managed re-election gaining just over a simple majority of votes, in the end capturing under his own sails just 51.85 percent (105,298) of the 203,069 total ballots cast on Nov. 3.
That’s not much of a vote of confidence, or a mandate, following on the heels of having barely won a plurality of votes cast when he was first elected mayor in 2011.
When DOE posted preliminary election results Nov. 3 at 10:36 p.m., Lee reportedly won 56.70 percent (70,715) of the 124,726 of ballots cast for mayor, while the “1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee” coalition — Amy Farah Weiss, Francisco Herrera and Stuart “Broke-Ass” Schuffman — snagged fully 35.75 percent (44,594) of initial votes. Election night, 7,536 ballots cast no vote for mayor at all.
By adding in 8,964 votes cast for two other official candidates, 453 ballots cast for “unqualified” (defined as not official) write-in candidates and 7,536 ballots not cast for mayor at all, Lee’s 70,715 votes drooped by 3.23 percent, to just 53.47 percent of the 132,262 total ballots cast on Election Day.
Fast forward to Nov. 19, when the DOE released certified election results. Mayor Lee drooped lower, garnering just 51.85 percent of the 203,069 total ballots cast, a 4.85 percent slide downward from 56.7 percent. The “1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee” coalition surged to 69,948 votes of the 85,099 (41.91 percent) ballots cast for mayor other than Lee, including 13,387 votes cast for two other official candidates (Kent Graham and Reed Martin), 59 votes for the six official “certified” write-in candidates and a staggering 1,705 votes cast for the so-called unqualified write-in candidates who didn’t register as official write-in candidates with the DOE prior to the election.
By the time the DOE certified election results, ballots cast with no vote for any mayoral candidate at all had nearly doubled to 13,362, representing 6.24 percent of the 203,069 ballots cast, apparently unwilling to vote for any official candidate.
Beyond the official election results report, the Ranked Choice Voting report revealed more information about the lack of confidence in Mayor Lee. Of the 203,069 ballots cast, just 168,232 advanced to being counted as “continuing” ballots in the final results. Fully, 34,837 votes — a whopping 17.16 percent — were tossed out and not counted by the RCV algorithm for the mayor’s race.
A total of 771 ballots were eliminated as “exhausted by over votes,” on which voters marked more than one candidate in the same ranked-choice column. Another 12,741 ballots were eliminated as “under votes,” which includes both blank ballots (in which voters cast no vote for mayor at all) and writing in the name of someone other than pre-qualified “certified” official write-in candidates.
Another 21,325 ballots were eliminated as “exhausted ballots,” which no longer included a “continuing” candidate because no additional ranked choice candidate names were indicated.
For instance, if someone cast a single vote only for, say, Amy Farrah Weiss, but didn’t include a second or third ranked-choice name, or a candidate is eliminated from advancing, the ballot is summarily deemed exhausted and not counted in RCV results.
An unintended consequence of having had albatross Julie Christensen hanging on for dear life to Mayor Lee’s tailcoats is that in District 3, Christensen may have dragged down ballots cast for Lee in the heavily Chinese-American district, given powerbroker Rose Pak’s annoyance with Lee. With an impressive 50.49 percent of registered voters casting votes in District 3, 17,544 of the district’s 34,559 voters cast ballots for mayor. Sadly, Lee captured just 55.82 percent (9,798) of the 17,544 cast.
The five official candidates, including the “1-2-3 Coalition,” snared 35.91 percent (6,304) of ballots cast in District 3, but fully 6.84 percent (1,200) of voters in District 3 were “under votes” that apparently cast no vote for mayor at all, two ballots were cast for the “official” certified write-in candidates, and another 184 ballots were cast for someone other than pre-qualified “certified” official write-in candidates. Maybe the mayor isn’t as popular in Chinatown and District 3 as everyone thinks.
As for campaign spending in the race, Mayor Lee’s Form 460, posted on the Ethics Commission’s campaign finance database for the period ending Oct. 17, 2015, shows he spent $1,401,248 during 2015, 31 times more than the $44,439 in combined spending by the “1-2-3 to Replace Ed Lee” coalition during the same period. Lee’s $1.4 million spent garnering his 105,298 votes translates to $13.31 per vote, whereas the $44,439 in combined spending by the 1-2-3 Coalition garnered 60,948 votes at a cost of just $0.64 per vote.
It reflects little confidence in the mayor, not a mandate.
The San Francisco Examiner’s Oct. 15 editorial accompanying its endorsements for the Nov. 3 election reported Lee had refused to meet with the Examiner’s editorial board. The editorial noted it’s a shame when a sitting mayor can get away with being aloof and disengaged with the civic process during an election season, and without a greater civic dialogue about where we are going and how we intend to get there, The City loses out.
The election results show clearly Mayor Lee has no mandate from voters, just a few emperor’s new clothes. Indeed, election results illustrate a referendum against our mayor and his many failed policies during the five years he’s been mayor.
Hopefully, the election of Aaron Peskin as District 3 Supervisor may help restore some balance of power between the legislative and executive branches at City Hall.
If not, the only option left may be to consider quickly mounting a recall campaign against Mayor Lee, to prevent a complete sellout of The City to his billionaire backers during the next four years.
Monette-Shaw is a columnist for San Francisco’s Westside Observer newspaper.