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Election Watch

June 25, 2003

The latest news about implementation of Ranked Choice (Instant Runoff) Voting 6/25/03

Ranked Choice Voting Progress

BOARD UNANIMOUSLY APPROVES RCV FUNDING. The SF Board of Supervisors has given unanimous approval of full funding for the implementation of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) this November. In a 11-0 vote on June 17th, the Board passed the $1.6 million needed to upgrade the citys voting equipment and $526,000 for an RCV Voter Education Program. In a move proposed by Supervisors Daly and Ma, the Board added an additional $250,000 for voter education to be held on Reserve until the Dept. of Elections provides a solid plan to utilize the funds.

VOTING EQUIPMENT VENDOR SAYS EQUIPMENT WILL BE READY. At the June 18th meeting of the SF Elections Commission, city election equipment vendor ES&S presented a status report on the testing and approval of the RCV full machine count procedure. Before a standing-room only crowd, ES&S spokesman Joe Taggard said that the company would be providing the Secretary of State with a fully operational vote counting machine on June 26th and was planning to do exhaustive testing with the Secretary of States staff and election consultants in the coming weeks. Taggard reported that their SF equipment and procedures had been submitted a month ahead of the original schedule and that, after approval, the changes to all of the citys voting machines could be completed within 2 weeks.

SECRETARY OF STATE OBSERVES TRIAL RUN OF BACKUP PLAN. On June 10th, nearly a dozen senior level staff with the California Secretary of States office observed an end-to-end demonstration of San Franciscos backup RCV manual counting plan as part of the states thorough review process. Observing a ballot handling and vote counting run-through using 300 ballots from a mock election, the Secretary of State staff were clearly very impressed that the citys procedures worked smoothly, quickly, and were easily transparent to interested observers. The Secretary of States office is conducting additional review of the backup RCV counting plan, while also working with the citys election equipment vendor to approve the preferred vote counting procedure a full machine count as quickly as possible.

TWO PRO-RCV OP-EDS. Two new opinion pieces in major SF newspapers solidly refute arguments by opponents that RCV will result in discrimination and be overly costly. A June 19 Asian Week piece by elected leaders from San Franciscos communities of color entitled Instant Runoff Voting Is Best For Minorities details the overwhelming support that the RCV ballot measure received from every racial and ethnic group in the city except for conservative white voters. And in a June 13 SF Chronicle op-ed by SF State Political Science Professor Richard DeLeon, former SF Elections Task Force Chair Gwenn Craig, and SF Ethics Commissioner Paul Melbostad, the authors cite city records that put the cost of December Runoff elections at about $4 million each about twice the cost of implementing RCV this November. Read the Asian Week op-ed at and the Chronicle op-ed at< /A>

View an analysis by the Center for Voting and Democracy of what a citywide election (i.e. a citywide December runoff) actually costs San Francisco taxpayers at

Latest Action By Opponents of Ranked Choice Voting

A lavishly-funded lobbying group backed by large corporations and big real estate interests has begun publicly working to block the implementation of RCV. In its newsletter last week, the lobby group SF-SOS issued a call to shelve the plan because some are saying that implementing the will of the voters might be more difficult than initially expected. At the same time, SF-SOS is blasting city officials for failing to implement an anti-homelessness measure approved by the voters last year.

Also leading the opposition efforts is the law firm Remcho, Johansen and Purcell, long-time associates of Mayor Willie Brown. Remcho, Johansen and Purcell have created a "front group" called California Voting Rights Foundation to stand as a plaintiff in case of a potential lawsuit. Another Brown-associated law firm, Pillsbury Winthrop, is also assisting the opposition. Pillsbury Winthrop is one of the largest corporate law firms in the United States, with 800 lawyers and offices all over the world.

Inside the Elections Commission and Department of Elections

The Dept. of Elections has begun its recruitment of Poll Workers for the November election. In a letter dated June 12th to past Poll Workers, the Dept. put out the call for help this fall and outlined a special one-hour training course about Ranked Choice Voting which all Poll Workers will be required to take in addition to the usual training class.

The Elections Commission held a Public Hearing on June 18th to solicit input about the Dept. of Elections proposed RCV Voter Education Plan. More than 70 people and representatives of the SF Chapters of NOW, the Sierra Club, and the League of Women Voters, the Southeast Asian Community Center, the Richmond Democratic Club, Pride at Work, District 3 Democratic Club, Democratic Party County Central Committee, Bernal Heights Democratic Club, Senior Action Network, Latino Democratic Club, Congress of California Seniors, SF Tenants Union, SEIU Locals 790 and 250, the SF Labor Council, A. Philip Randolph Institute, Green Party, CALPIRG, the Northern California Citizens Project, and the Harvey Milk L/G/B/T Democratic Club spoke in support of implementing RCV this fall and provided a number of suggestions to the Commission. Among them were calls to: 1) prioritize education in communities of color and lower-turnout precincts 2) spend less than the budgeted $40,000 on a web site and put more towards community education and 3) keep the voter education focused on what most voters will want to know: how and why to rank your choices.

Mark Your Calendar

IMPORTANT MEETING. On Wednesday, July 2nd the S.F. Elections Commission will meet to make key decisions about the implementation of the RCV Public Education Plan. 7:00 pm in Room 400 in S.F. City Hall. All those interested are encouraged to attend.

SF Election Watch is a project of the Center for Voting and Democracy For more information contact Jon Golinger at (415) 531-8585 or or visit

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