PR Puts Up a Good Fight In San Francisco

From: Steven Hill
Date: Wed, 13 Nov 1996 01:33:05 -0800 (PST)
Subject: PR loses the first round in San Francisco

Dear friends, colleagues and allies,

Unfortunately I have the unhappy duty to report to you that Proposition H -- our charter amendment in San Francisco for proportional representation -- failed to win a majority of votes on Nov. 5. We did win 44 percent of the vote -- almost 95,000 votes -- which is a great first showing, but unfortunately not enough to win.

At the same time, district elections (Proposition G) did win a majority, in fact 57 percent. So San Francisco will have a new voting system after all, albeit not the best one, and in many ways -- given how spread out minority communities are in San Francisco, and other factors -- a deeply flawed system. I imagine election reform in San Francisco is not going away anytime soon.

We are still analyzing the results and the campaign itself. With the assistance of the Public Research Institute at San Francisco State University and the Seasongood Foundation we conducted an exit poll on the day of election that will give us lots of good data about why people rejected choice voting / proportional representation. The data will also allow us to rerun the Supervisor elections for this year using choice voting, and compare the results with the present system and with district elections. Should be interesting indeed.

When we have more analysis, we will forward that to you. Suffice it to say for now, however, that our campaign performed amazingly well, raised about $30,000 (with the generosity of many of you) and generally ran a mistake-free campaign. Our downfall was largely due to having only three and a half months to campaign and educate most San Franciscans about a new and in many ways radical (for the U.S.) idea. Voters in San Francisco (like the rest of the U.S.) are used to lousy representation, and the notion of fair, equal and diverse representation is, sadly, a "radical" and confusing policy in the U.S., even in San Francisco. Still, if we had $200,000 to spend we might have been able to overcome the short amount of time. While we were pleased with the amount of funds raised, it simply was not enough given the other circumstances.

Still, 44 percent and 95,000 votes is something that all of us -- all of you -- can feel proud about. We opened a beachhead in "winner take all" soil, attracted national attention to our campaign, and hopefully planted the seeds for future efforts. Already, it looks like Cincinnati will vote on choice voting in March of 1997. And five visitors from Great Britain -- two of them Members of Parliament, the other three from the Electoral Reform Society -- who were here the last week of the election to study our campaign, went back with lots of useful information and insights as they prepare for a hoped-for national referendum in Britain for choice voting within the next two or three years.

Thanks so much for your support in this effort. We couldn't have traveled as far as we did without you.

Steven Hill, Center for Voting and Democracy