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San Francisco's first use of Instant Runoff Voting is Big Success

For current updates on San Francisco's use of IRV, please visit our new page at

Media contact:  Steven Hill, (415) 665-5044, [email protected]

January 17, 2005: Read FairVote's Evaluation of San Francisco’Äôs First Ranked Choice Voting Election, compiling data and reports from San Francisco State University, the Chinese American Voters Education Committee, and the San Francisco Department of Elections.

Chinese American Voters Education Committee (CAVEC) exit polls shows IRV is a big success.

On November 2, 2004, San Francisco voters made history when they went to the polls and used ranked choice voting (also known as instant runoff voting) to elect seven members of the Board of Supervisors (city council). All winners were determined by Friday afternoon, less than 72 hours after the polls had closed, and the city saved millions of tax dollars by avoiding a low turnout, December runoff election.  In addition, all winners were elected with many more votes than in previous races for Supervisor, so more voters had a say in who their local representatives are. All in all, it was a great success for the maiden voyage of ranked choice voting in San Francisco (see media coverage below).

Number one rankings were released on election night, and based on those preliminary results it was obvious that three races in Districts 2, 3 and 9 were decided because the frontrunners had too great a lead. The other four races required the "instant runoff" to decide the winners, with results known by Friday afternoon, November 5.

Besides Board of Supervisor, in other years ranked choice voting will be used to elect the mayor, district attorney, sheriff, treasurer, city attorney, public defender, and tax assessor.

Read FairVote's assessment giving thumbs up to San Francisco's
first IRV election: FairVote reviews three measures of success
for the first election in San Francisco, addresses other topics relating to
the election and answers frequently asked questions.

Media coverage

  • Common Dreams: "Success for Instant Runoff Voting in San Francisco"

  • News release: "IRV wins approval: Only 13% in San Francisco want to return to runoffs"

  • SFSU analysis: David Grenell breaks down exit poll information

  • Sing Tao Daily: "Chinese Leaders Disagree that New Voting System in S.F. Discriminates Against Chinese"

  • SF Examiner: "The Body Politic"

  • Indy Bay (CA): "Ignoring Tired Pleas"

  • SF Examiner: "Instant runoff's allies cite merits"

  • NPR: "San Francisco Tries 'No Runoff' Voting Method" Streaming audio.

  • SF Examiner: "City's voting system tricky but successful"

  • SF Chronicle: "New vote -- it's a go: Premiere of ranked-choice voting method mostly gets a thumbs-up -- few glitches"

  • SF Examiner: "Ranked Choice Tested: Election officials give new system run-through"

  • Washington Post: "Improve on Red v. Blue: Winner-take-all systems leave out too many voters"

  • Washington Post: "For voters, choice is as easy as 1,2,3."

  • NY Times: "New Runoff System in San Francisco Has the Rival Candidates Cooperating"

  • SF Examiner: "Voters Trained in New Ballots"

  • KTVU-TV:  "Instant Runoff Voting Approved for San Francisco"

  • SF Examiner:  "City Hall unveils new ballot for instant runoffs"
  • SF Bay Guardian:  "IRV is on"
  • NPR Morning News:  "San Francisco Adopts Instant Runoff Elections"
  • Los Angeles Times:  "S.F. Takes the Lead in New Voting Method"
  • San Francisco Chronicle:  "Ranked Vote gets Fanciful Scenario"

Below are some valuable resources about Instant Runoff Voting in San Francisco:

The Center for Voting and Democracy has numerous documents to assist with the technical details of implementing instant runoff voting on the city's voting equipment.  Examples include the following:

Historical information regarding the passage of Proposition A and the implementation of IRV in San Francisco:

For more information about voter education and the implementation of Proposition A, please contact:

Steven Hill
Center for Voting and Democracy
415-665-5044, [email protected]

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Copyright ¬© 2004     The Center for Voting and Democracy
6930 Carroll Ave, Suite 610, Takoma Park, MD 20912
(301) 270-4616        [email protected]