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Sing Tao Daily

Chinese Leaders Disagree that New Voting System in S.F. Discriminates Against Chinese

Translated by Kai Lui

December 14, 2004

Chinese community leaders expressed their disagreement over recent comments made by David Lee, the executive director of the Chinese American Voter Education Committee, who blasted the city's new instant run off system claiming that it heavily discriminates against Chinese voters.

Yvonne Lee, a former U.S. civil rights commissioner said that the new "Ranked Choice Voting" system that eliminates traditional run off races was implemented only once and definitive conclusions cannot be drawn based on the one time experience. "Saying that the new system is anti-Chinese only represents David Lee's personal view. It is irresponsible and can be misleading," she said.

Yvonne Lee said there were many reasons why Chinese candidates, as many as six who vied for seats on the city's Board of Supervisors, did not win. If a traditional runoff system was held, the result would be the same, she said. She used the example of Chinese American Mabel Teng's loss in a past runoff election for a Board seat. She lost because Chinese voters in general did not participate in the separate December runoff election, she said. Long-time voters are the ones that typically come out for run-off elections. Yvonne Lee believes the new instant runoff method is more advantageous for the Chinese in the city.

In response to David Lee's remarks that the Ranked Choice Voting system gives an advantage to incumbents who have greater name recognition, Yvonne Lee said that incumbent always has more advantages, whether on the federal level or on the state level. She said the main determinant for a candidate to win an election depends on how he or she campaigning. She believes that the key to success of the new election mechanism lies in enhancing voter education. She does not believe this is the right time to make a negative conclusion about the system.

Ling Chi Wang, ethnic studies professor at the University of California at Berkeley, said that David Lee's comments have no evidence to support them. He said that it is improper for him to mix different information together. "Five years ago there were three Chinese American supervisors, now there is only one. This has nothing to do with instant runoff. There is no evidence indicating that the ranked-choice system is a failure."

Wang believes that there is nothing wrong with the instant runoff system and that the Chinese-language media covered the system and how it works extensively before the election: "Before the election, the Chinese language newspapers had extensive reports, in successive articles, educating readers on how to vote," said Wang. He added that assertions that the new system is disadvantageous to the Chinese community is groundless.

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