runoff's allies cite merits
Even though not all votes have been counted, results are looking
very good for the backers of ranked-choice voting, also known as
instant runoff. Higher voter participation in supervisor elections
was a key goal, and in District 1, Supervisor Jake McGoldrick won
election with nearly 4,000 more votes than he did under a December
runoff in 2000. In District 5, supervisor-elect Ross Mirkarimi had
several hundred more votes than Matt Gonzalez won with in the runoff
of four years ago, and District 7 rep Sean Elsbernd topped former
boss Tony Hall's vote total by more than 1,000. Supervisor Gerardo
Sandoval pulled out 450 votes more than in his first-term win. ...
This year, with about $2.4 million going into the new voting
system, the cost is a bit higher than traditional district runoffs.
But should next year's city attorney and treasurer races call for a
citywide runoff, the savings will be in the millions. ... IRV
proponent Steven Hill also argues it makes for less negative
campaigning. Hill and many political insiders have been pondering
the damage that could have been inflicted in a runoff between Green
Party member Mirkarimi -- who won District 5 by a wide margin -- and
Democrat Robert Haaland. Even if they had managed to keep it clean
on the surface, a head-to-head battle between the two progressives
likely would have involved character assassinations on both sides
that could have ripped the district apart, just like the 2002
assembly primary split backers of Harry Britt and Mark Leno. ... A
quick look at the votes out of District 5 shows significant
crossover support between the two, and, absent the bruising second
round, Haaland remains strong to fight another day. ... "We not
only have our December back, but we just dodged a big bullet in
terms of what kind of campaigns we would have had in December,"
Hill said. "[Sandoval's race] too. Imagine another five weeks,
as each side gets increasingly more aggressive." ...
Sandoval said he's concerned that some ethnic voters were
confused by the system -- and there's plenty of anecdotal evidence
that's true for a large subsection of voters -- but he approved of
how IRV worked after getting past an initial problem with processing
the ranked votes. "Except for the computer snafu, it did save
us another five weeks of torture," he said. ... The
second-place finisher in Sandoval's race, though, isn't so sanguine.
Using arguments that have dogged the system since its introduction
to voters more than two years ago, Myrna Lim -- who came in more
than 2,600 votes behind Sandoval -- asserts that it's "a bad
experiment" that has gone awry. "The results of the
election should be thrown out and we should start all over again
with a process that does not disenfranchise the minority and
immigrant population," Lim wrote reporters. ...
Jim Ross, Lim's political consultant, said she might have beaten
Sandoval if she'd had better funding, but she was heavily outspent
in the last month of the campaign. He's not arguing for a new
election, but he thinks it wouldn't hurt to let voters weigh in
again on the process. ... "Do you want to keep doing it, or do
you want to go back to the old system?" Ross said. ...
IRV is undoubtedly most disappointing for those who thought it
would somehow dramatically change election results. In the absence
of a strong tide against the incumbents, last week's elections
basically approved the status quo. Winners include Haaland, the
district-based system of elections and its incumbents of 2000, and
Matt Tuchow in District 1. Early results indicate Tuchow was widely
supported as a second choice by backers of both the incumbent and
second-place winner Lillian Sing. He kept above the fray in the race
to place third and is looking very strong for 2008. ...
The biggest boon of IRV is hard data about how San Franciscans
vote. Hill's Center for Voting and Democracy and at least two other
groups of political analysts are now parsing the full list of how
voters ranked -- or failed to rank -- supervisor candidates. From
that data will come answers to the question of whether minorities
were left out by the new system, whether endorsement slates had any
impact, and plenty more questions to paint a picture of what
district voters were really thinking at the polls.