San Francisco Examiner
new voting system rolls ahead
June 5, 2003
Plunging ahead with a plan to
have a radical new voting system ready for the mayor and district
attorney races, a panel of San Francisco supervisors approved $2.3
million to fund new software and voter outreach.
The City is racing
against a deadline of late summer to have an instant runoff, or
"ranked choice," voting method ready in time to mail out absentee
ballots. There is also some pressure from interest groups that say
they will sue to block the new system.
Both advocates of the ranked
choice system (approved two years ago at the ballot) and opponents
have been waging fierce public relations fights over the plan, which
would allow voters to rank their first, second and third choices for
city offices. Voters who didn't pick one of the top vote getters
would have their successive choices tallied until one candidate
achieved a majority of the votes.
Proponents say the system limits
negative campaigns, strengthens minority voters and eliminates
costly "top two" runoff elections. Foes have argued that a new
method of voting will turn off minorities and that the initial cost
and risk of a new system is too high.
The Elections Department had
submitted a plan for a massive, time-consuming hand count process to
the Secretary of State Kevin Shelley's office for certification. On
Monday, city contractor Election Systems & Software presented
Shelley's office with a streamlined software solution. Shelley must
certify an election plan before local officials can go forward.
Wednesday, the Board of Supervisors Finance Committee recommended
paying $1.6 million to ES&S, with payments subject to a series
of benchmarks. Submission of a plan to Shelley by Monday was the
"This is a very well prescribed process and we're
just following it," Joe Taggard, an ES&S sales vice president,
told The Examiner.
The supervisors also approved $526,000 for voter
outreach to help educate San Franciscans in the three months leading
up to the election. Cutting down a more than $2 million proposal
from the Elections Department, the supervisors included $100,000 to
paying community organizations for outreach work.
The entire plan,
which still must meet approval from a majority of the full Board of
Supervisors, comes in at about $300,000 more than the mayor's office
has budgeted for a traditional December runoff. Barring disaster,
the system would be used for subsequent local elections and could be
improved as The City upgrades to touch-screen voting in the next few
Public speakers Wednesday spoke mostly in favor of the new
Members of the A. Philip Randolph Institute, one of
the groups asking Shelley to deny certification of the voting plan,
asked for more support for teaching public housing residents how
used ranked choice voting.
Supervisors and speakers criticized the
San Francisco Chronicle for its repeated bashing of the plan.
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