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Election Watch

June 3, 2003

From: Jon Golinger, Center for Voting and Democracy

Dear IRV supporters,

We urgently need to get letters and e-mails into Secretary of State Kevin Shelleyĺ─˘s office, urging the Secretary of State to certify with all deliberate speed the pending applications for counting the upcoming Ranked Choice Voting election in San Francisco.

Below are the main points for your letters and e-mails, as well as a sample letter, addressed to the Secretary of State. Please read it and modify it or send it as is to the Secretary of State. BUT DO IT IMMEDIATELY.

It is imperative that we show the SOS, who oversees implementation, that there is significant support for immediate implementation (also contained in the letter is much valuable information that you will find of interest).

Also, try to get any organizations with which you are affiliated to send a letter as well.

Here is the contact info for the Secretary of State. You can fax, mail, or email it. Faxing or mailing is preferable (apparently the SOS's office is better at processing letters that have been mailed or faxed, rather than e-mailed. But I realize email is more convenient, and it that's all you can do then that will work). If you email the letter, please blind cc: [email protected] , or forward a copy to that email address. If you fax or mail it, please fax a copy to us at 415-665-5044.

Fax number: 415-557-0169
Mailing address: Attention: Secretary of State, Elections Division, 1500 11th Avenue, Sacramento, California 95814
E-mail: [email protected] and [email protected] (both places)

Here are the main points, followed by the sample letter. Make as many or as few of these points as you wish. Let's make IRV happen! Please forward this to your own email lists.

Main points:

1) Please expedite the certifying of both voting equipment and ĺ─˙partial hand countĺ─¨ method for the ĺ─˙ranked choice votingĺ─¨ (also known as ĺ─˙instant runoff votingĺ─¨) ballot counting procedure.

2) Unfortunately some in San Francisco are attempting to "politicize" the implementation. They believe killing IRV will help their preferred candidate for mayor. But what is most important is to fulfill the ĺ─˙will of the voters.ĺ─¨

3) Ranked choice voting is critically important for empowering communities of color and minority voters of San Francisco. There is strong evidence that ranked choice elections have had a positive effect on communities of color and language minorities in other places, including New York City, Ann Arbor, Cincinnati, London, Australia, Cambridge, MA, and more. San Franciscoĺ─˘s previous two-round (December) runoff system was discriminatory of communities of color, since voter turnout declined most among minority precincts and candidates were forced to raise money for two elections, which is an additional disadvantage for minority candidates.

4) San Franciscoĺ─˘s communities of color strongly voted in favor of Proposition A to implement ranked choice voting, including 69 percent support in Latino precincts, 62 percent in African American precincts, and 55 percent in Asian American precincts.

5) Ranked Choice Voting will get rid of an unnecessary December runoff that was inconvenient for voters and cost millions of tax dollars. The money it takes to implement ranked choice voting costs far less than the cost of a second election.

6) The Department of Elections actually has run a hand count before, for the 1999 mayorĺ─˘s race. Supervisor Tom Ammiano ran a write-in campaign necessitating the hand-counting of tens of thousands of ballots. That took over a week to finish, but the Department of Elections handled the job with accuracy, transparency, and a high degree of security. So if the voting equipment isn't ready, the "partial hand count" is workable as a one-time solution until the voting equipment is ready.

7) Even with the cost of a partial hand count, it still will save the City over $2 million dollars in the first year alone, since the cost of holding the second election in December is about $4.5 million, but the estimated costs of the partial hand count is less than half that amount.

8) With a partial hand count, the mayoral election results still will be available a month sooner than with a December runoff.

9) Other places in the US, as well as entire nations like Australia and Ireland, have used hand counts extensively to count their ballots for decades. If they can do it, itĺ─˘s doable for one election in San Francisco until the voting equipment is ready.

Here is the sample letter, which expands on many of the points above.

To: Secretary of State Kevin Shelley
1500 11th Avenue, Sacramento, California 95814

Dear Secretary of State Shelley,

I am urging you to do your best to push forward the certifying of voting equipment and procedures for the ĺ─˙ranked choice votingĺ─¨ (also known as ĺ─˙instant runoff votingĺ─¨) ballot counting procedure to be used in San Francisco. Currently you have two proposals before you, one to certify ES&Sĺ─˘s voting equipment and the other to certify a ĺ─˙partial hand countĺ─¨ in case the voting equipment isnĺ─˘t ready. I urge you to certify both of these as quickly as possible.

Unfortunately there are some in San Francisco who are attempting to "politicize" the implementation. They believe killing IRV will help their preferred candidate for mayor, and care not at all about fulfilling the ĺ─˙will of the voters.ĺ─¨ But ranked choice voting is critically important for empowering communities of color and minority voters of San Francisco, and for getting rid of an unnecessary December runoff that was inconvenient for voters and cost millions of tax dollars.

San Franciscoĺ─˘s previous two-round (December) runoff system was discriminatory of communities of color. Research by San Francisco State University professor Rich DeLeon has demonstrated that, while citywide voter turnout declined in most December runoff elections, it declined even more among 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 has occurred when voter turnout in communities of color was at its lowest. Also, the December runoff forced candidates to raise money for two elections, often in a short period of time for the second election, which was an additional disadvantage for minority communities and candidates.

Not only will RCV do away with the discriminatory impacts of two-round runoff elections, but there is strong evidence that ranked choice elections have had a positive effect on communities of color and language minorities in other places, including New York City, Ann Arbor, Cincinnati, London, Australia, and more. Ranked Choice Voting elected a black mayor when it was used in Ann Arbor, Michigan. A legal challenge to the system by the losing Republican candidate was rejected by the Michigan court, and ranked choice voting was upheld as constitutional and in full compliance with ĺ─˙one person, one vote.ĺ─¨

Moreover, ranked ballots in New York City community school board elections have HELPED racial and language minorities. In these elections, large percentages of non-English speaking voters participated. As the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) has documented, Asian American candidates achieved greater electoral success in these elections than in any other elections in New York City. 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 in 1999 upheld the use of New York Cityĺ─˘s ranked ballot elections, and Bill Lann Lee, first Asian American director of the Civil Rights division of the Justice Department, was personally involved in this decision.

For all these reasons, San Franciscoĺ─˘s communities of color strongly voted in favor of Proposition A on March 5, 2002, which implemented ranked choice voting for all major city offices. A study showed that Latino precincts voted 69% in favor of Proposition A, African American precincts 62%, and Asian American precincts 55%. In fact, the only major demographic that voted against Proposition A was white conservative precincts, which voted 42% in favor of Prop A. Also Prop A was endorsed by leading minority groups and leaders, including Chinese for Affirmative Action, Asian Pacific Democratic Club, Asian Week, Latino Democratic Club, San Francisco Bay View Newspaper, United Farm Workers, President of the Board of Supervisors Matt Gonzalez, school board members Eric Mar and Mark Sanchez, and more.

I urge you to speedily certify both the vendor ES&Sĺ─˘ application for certification to their voting equipment, as well as the ĺ─˙partial hand countĺ─¨ for ranked choice voting put forward by the Department of Elections. Some of the media are making the partial hand count procedure sound like a nightmare, a Frankenstein experiment that has never been done before. Yet the Department of Elections actually ran a hand count for the 1999 mayorĺ─˘s race! Supervisor Tom Ammiano ran a write-in campaign necessitating the hand-counting of tens of thousands of ballots. Ballots were sorted by precinct and by candidate, and each Ammiano ballot had to be manually tallied. That process took over a week to finish, but the Department of Elections handled the job with accuracy, transparency, and a high degree of security.

The Dept of Elections has proposed the partial hand count as a one-time solution in case the voting equipment isnĺ─˘t ready for this November. I am encouraged by the fact that 1) the Department has used a similar hand count method before in the 1999 mayoral race; 2) even with the cost of a partial hand count, it still will save the City a couple of million dollars, since the cost of holding the second election in December is about $4.5 million, but the estimated costs of the partial hand count is less than half that amount; 3) the mayoral election results still will be available a month sooner than with a December runoff; and 4) other places in the US, as well as entire nations like Australia and Ireland, have used hand counts extensively to count their ballots for decades. If they can do it, I think itĺ─˘s doable for one election until the voting equipment is ready, even while not preferable.

In sum, there is strong evidence from many places, both in the United States and abroad, that ranked ballots and ranked choice voting have been advantageous to communities of color and their candidates. And there is strong evidence of the discriminatory impacts and voting rights implications in the use of San Franciscoĺ─˘s previous two-round (December) runoff system. It is simply untrue that there is any evidence that ranked ballots are confusing for minority voters, or will disenfranchise minority voters, or will diminish their ability to participate in San Francisco's electoral process.

It is unfortunate that some in San Francisco are choosing to politicize this implementation of IRV because they believe killing it will help their preferred candidate for mayor. They care not at all about fulfilling the ĺ─˙will of the voters.ĺ─¨ But I believe that the partial hand count procedure outlined by the Department of Elections is workable for November if the voting equipment isnĺ─˘t ready. In any case, ranked choice voting should and must go forward. I urge you to implement speedily the will of San Francisco voters, as well as the law of San Francisco, which is to elect our local offices by ranked choice voting.

Sincerely,


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