San Francisco Bay Guardian
Barely alive: Only the
courts can save IRV now that Arntz has declared it dead and the
commission prepares to pull the trigger.
Posorske and Steven T. Jones
August 13, 2003
When city Department of Elections director
John Arntz declared instant-runoff voting dead for this year, IRV
opponents and the city's daily newspapers were quick to sign off on
the death certificate. Anti-IRV forces on the city's Elections
Commission then attempted to validate Arntz's decision during a
rancorous Aug. 6 meeting, but the body deadlocked with a 3-3 vote.
While IRV - also known as ranked-choice voting - barely clings to
life, there are still maneuvers taking place that could revive it
for the fall ballot, as voters mandated when they approved Measure A
last year. The Center for Voting and Democracy on Aug. 11 filed a
lawsuit to compel IRV's implementation. San Francisco Superior Court
Judge James L. Warren will hear the case Aug. 20, just hours before
the Elections Commission is set to reconsider the matter.
Steven Hill said he expects the court to decide that afternoon
whether to order the city to implement IRV. The lawsuit argues that
Arntz had no legal basis to declare IRV dead since two vote-counting
methods are still on the table: an electronic method that could be
certified by the state by mid-September and the hand-counting system
of a British firm that the city has not officially considered.
said the firm's hand-counting system could give election results
within two days, and the method would not be dependent on Secretary
of State Kevin Shelley's approval since it would not be considered a
"voting system" that needs state approval, although City Attorney
Dennis Hererra has opined that even hand counts need state approval.
The most vocal opponents of IRV have been centrist Democrats
aligned with Mayor Willie Brown and mayoral hopeful Gavin Newsom,
who could benefit from a divided progressive field. That political
reasoning got even stronger when progressive Sup. Matt Gonzalez
jumped into the mayor's race Aug. 8.
While confident of his chances
even without IRV, Gonzalez told the Bay Guardian he's bothered by
foot-dragging in the Secretary of State's Office: "I don't think
they've taken the steps they could to make this happen."
Taggard of city elections vendor Election Systems and Software told
the Bay Guardian on Aug. 6 that he had just sent the state the final
elements of his company's application, but a Shelley spokesperson
told us Aug. 11 (finally returning several calls just before press
time), "We have not received any vendor application," which Taggard
So IRV's fate now rests with the courts and
with the Elections Commission, whose Aug. 6 deadlock (with one
commissioner, Robert Kenealey, who isn't considered a supporter of
IRV, absent) did not qualify as a ringing endorsement of Arntz. At
least two committee members were upset by the new stand of the
previously neutral Arntz, and one, Richard Shadoian, lit into Arntz
at the meeting, questioning whether he had the power to declare IRV
"We are going to tell you what to do," Shadoian angrily said
to Arnst. "I think you've gone way over your rights to do something
But commission president Alix Rosenthal, who has been
publicly doubtful about the wisdom of implementing IRV this year,
favors letting Arntz's decision stand.
The Elections Commission meets
Aug. 20, 7 p.m., City Hall, Room 400, 1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett