San Francisco Examiner
seeks to force 1-2-3 ranked voting
Advocates of instant runoff elections filed suit Monday to
force San Francisco to conduct its November election using the new
system, which would allow voters to rank three successive candidates
in the mayor, district attorney and sheriff races. A superior court
judge denied the plaintiffs' request that the Department of
Elections immediately begin educating voters on the method, but set
an Aug. 20 hearing date for the issue.
The Department of Elections
earlier this month halted preparations for using the instant runoff
method, also know as ranked choice voting, in November. The
electorate approved the voting method by charter reform in March
Matt Dorsey, a spokesman for the City Attorney, said it's
unfortunate that The City can't implement the new system in time for
the November election, but an election must go on under the old
system of December runoffs.
"We're pleased the court didn't do
anything to interfere with the preparations for this election,"
Dorsey said, responding to the Monday ruling on the plaintiffs'
request for immediate action.
The Center for Voting and Democracy,
Congress of California Seniors, San Francisco Labor Council,
California Public Interest Research Group, Chinese Progressive
Association and four individual voters brought the suit.
Elections Department had a year and a half to get their act together
on this," said attorney Lowell Finley, who is pressing the suit.
argues that the deadline for stopping preparations for an IRV- style
election should be in mid-September and that a full hand count of
ballots is legal without approval of the Secretary of State.
Hill of the Secretary of State's office said the office last week
got certification from federal testing authorities on a mechanical
counting method but is still awaiting final certification on
That certification could come in two weeks, but a panel
would have to review it, which could take an additional 30 days.
Steven Hill of the Center for Voting and Democracy says an outside
contractor can conduct a full hand count of the ballots in three
days, at a cost of about $250,000.
Electoral Reform Services, an
internationally known contractor, has had contact with the
Department of Elections but no formal arrangement has been made.
December runoff, based on the cost of the citywide October recall
election, could cost more than $3 million.
Arthur Chang, one of the
plaintiffs in the suit, said it is difficult in some minority
communities to teach voters to come back to the polls for a runoff
after they have already picked a candidate. He also said that
forcing working people to return to the polls multiple times hurts
turnout and makes for a winner with less actual votes.
voters' successive choices are counted if their top candidate or
candidates are eliminated due to low vote totals.
"The old system
is a moneymaking system for the political consultants and the people
who want to win without a majority of the vote," Chang said.