June 13, 2003
URGENT - Instant Runoff
Voting in San Francisco Needs You Next Wednesday
IRV in SF needs you! Please attend a critical Elections
Commission Public Hearing about IRV Voter Education at 7pm on
Wednesday, June 18th at SF City Hall.
All the community pressure
you have been exerting over the last two weeks is working. IRV is
now moving forward full speed ahead towards the November 4th
But perhaps the MOST important meeting of all is coming
up. If you can make only one meeting, THIS is the one. It’Äôs the only
scheduled Public Hearing by the Elections Commission about the
city's "Instant Runoff Voter Education Program" - the Secretary of
State’Äôs office, city voting equipment vendor and SF Director of
Elections all will be there. Here’Äôs your chance to reach all the
important players at one time with your testimony.
WHAT: SF Elections Commission Public Hearing about the city's
proposed Instant Runoff Voter Education Program
June 18 at 7:00 p.m.
WHERE: Room 400, San Francisco City Hall
the Meeting Agenda at
Attached below is an excellent
IRV op-ed in today's SF Chronicle.
San Francisco Chronicle
the will of the voters
By Gwenn Craig, Rich DeLeon,
June 13, 2003
Instant runoff voting -- whereby voters pick not only their first
but secondary choices -- will eliminate the costly and poorly
attended runoffs that have become a fixture of San Francisco
elections. The appeal was evident in the approval of last year's
ballot measure, which passed with 55 percent of the vote.
California Secretary of State Kevin Shelley and the San Francisco
Elections Commission are doing everything possible to speed the
implementation of instant runoff voting. Recently, Elections Systems
and Software, the company hired by the city to upgrade voting
equipment, submitted its work plan to Shelley for certification.
Everything appears to be on track for the November election.
disinformation campaign has begun. Unfortunately, some political
operatives and organizations are attempting to undermine the
process, because they believe their interests will fare better in a
low-turnout December runoff.
They are trying to politicize what
should be a straightforward administrative issue. That's a
disservice to San Francisco.
Instant runoff voting is critically
important for getting rid of unnecessary December runoffs that have
been inconvenient for voters and cost millions of tax dollars.
Perhaps most important, however, is that instant runoff voting will
empower minority voters in San Francisco.
San Francisco's previous
December runoff system discriminated against communities of color.
Research from San Francisco State University demonstrated that,
while citywide voter turnout declined in most December runoffs, it
declined even more in minority precincts. Communities of color often
do not have the financial resources to mobilize voters for two
back-to- back elections. Consequently, the final decisive election
in December occurred when minority voter turnout was at its lowest.
Also, the December runoff forced candidates to raise money for two
elections, which was an additional disadvantage for minority
Moreover, there is strong evidence that ranked-ballot
elections in other places have had a positive effect on communities
of color. For instance, instant runoff voting elected a black
Democratic mayor in Ann Arbor, Mich., in 1975. A legal challenge to
the system by the losing Republican candidate was rejected by a
Michigan court, and instant runoff voting was upheld as
constitutional and in full compliance with the U.S. Supreme Court's
landmark "one person, one vote" decision in the 1960s.
ballots in New York City's community school board elections have
provided opportunities for racial minorities since 1969. In these
elections, large percentages of non-English speaking voters
participated. As the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund
has documented, Asian American candidates achieved greater electoral
success in these elections than in any other elections in New York
City. Latino and African Americans also consistently won fair
According to the Asian American Legal Defense and
Education Fund, the ranked ballots encouraged coalition-building and
teamwork, and helped minority communities to prevent split votes
among their own competing candidates. The U. S. Department of
Justice upheld the use of New York City's ranked ballot elections,
and Bill Lann Lee, first Asian American director of the DOJ's civil
rights division, was involved in this decision.
communities of color strongly voted in favor of Proposition A's
instant runoff voting, including 69 percent support in Latino
precincts, 62 percent in African American precincts and 55 percent
in Asian American precincts. In fact, the only major demographic
that voted against Proposition A were white conservative precincts.
Also Proposition A was endorsed by leading minority groups and
leaders, including Chinese for Affirmative Action, Asian Pacific
Democratic Club, Asian Week, Latino Democratic Club, United Farm
Workers, San Francisco Democratic Party, Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr.,
Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez, school board members
Eric Mar and Mark Sanchez -- to name a few.
Opponents of instant
runoff voting say that it will be costly to implement. But citywide
elections such as a December runoff cost about $4 million, according
to the San Francisco Elections Commission. The estimated costs of
implementing instant runoff voting are less than half that amount.
Millions of dollars will be saved every year we don't have a second
election in December. And we will have our election results a month
sooner than with a December runoff.
It is unfortunate that
some in San Francisco are choosing to politicize this implementation
process. San Francisco public officials and the California secretary of state should speedily
implement the will of San Francisco voters, which is to elect our
local offices by instant runoff voting.
Gwenn Craig is a former San
Francisco police commissioner and chair of the elections task force.
Richard DeLeon is professor of political science at San Francisco
State University. Paul Melbostad is the past president of the San
Francisco Ethics Commission