Francisco's Ranked Choice Ballot
May 2004 (revised October 2004)
Thanks to the many folks who provided valuable input on ballot design, we
have been able to significantly improve the San Francisco ballot. This
illustrates the most important rule of ballot design: get lots of public
To see the impact of your input, compare the following 4 ballots developed by
the San Francisco Department of Elections:
- October 2001: The Department original
- March 2003: The wraparound ballot
submitted to the VSP
- May 2004: The current sample ballot,
which we are continuing to work to improve.
- Oct 2004: The official 2004 ranked
choice ballot that voter used. See page 7 of the ballot, and note
the 22 candidates in the RCV election. Also, note that the actual
ballots had color tinting that highlighted the 3 columns with dark, medium
and light boxes containing large, white numbers to
indicate 1st, 2nd and 3rd choices. This tinting is visible on the sample ballot.
For reference, we strongly promoted the idea of a side-by-side ballot and
provided 3 different examples along with a report of
- Our first side-by-side ballot
- Our second side-by-side ballot
- The Design for Democracy Project's
bilingual side-by-side version.
When the California Voting Systems Panel (VSP) approved the use of the
ES&S equipment for San Francisco's November 2004 election, it directed the
city and the vendor to try to develop a more user-friendly ballot. The Center for
Voting and Democracy supported these efforts by gathering input from San
Francisco voters and concerned citizens about the ballot format that they find
easiest to use.
May 17: We received over 80 comments on ballot formats,
and the consensus is clear: respondents overwhelmingly prefer a
side-by-side format, so we developed a second side-by-side format to gather
We also sought you feedback on the text and format of the
instructions to the voters, which will appear in English, Spanish and Chinese:
For comparison, you can look at an actual sample ballot from
the March 2004 primary
election (1.8MB file), as well as the Department's original wrap-around ballot.
After reviewing the possible IRV ballots, please send us responses to the
following questions, along with any additional comments you wish to make about
the IRV ballots:
- Which side-by-side version (#1 or #2) do you prefer?
- How can you preferred version be improved?
- How can we improve the wording and text formatting of the instructions to
Please send us your responses, along with any additional
comments you wish, by email or fax::
We have compiled a preliminary CVD report on
ballot design along with an appendix
of comments received as of May 18, 2004.
Please note that the basic ballot format for the Elections Systems and
Software (ES&S) Optech Eagle is fairly limited and not especially voter
friendly: the ballot has 3 columns of candidates and races and voters
complete arrows to the right of their candidates.