San Francisco Examiner

City's new way to vote
October 15, 2004

A VOTING METHOD new to San Francisco will show up on the Nov. 2 ballots. It's ranked-choice voting, and though voters approved its introduction through a 2002 ballot proposition, some people may be surprised and confused to see it on Election Day. For those unfamiliar with it now, there's plenty of time left to learn this new way to vote.

RCV will be used only in selecting members of the Board of Supervisors. Voting for other offices, and for state and local propositions, will be done just like it was in March and in November 2003. Voters whose district is not choosing a supervisor in November won't see RCV at all this year. The method of marking the ballot remains the same: Voters will draw a line completing an arrow to indicate their choice.

Ranked-choice voting gets its name from the fact that voters pick the three candidates they would most like to see in office, and rank them from first choice to third choice. A candidate does not get more help if a voter chooses his or her name all three times, or only marks a first choice.

When votes are counted, any candidate who gets more than 50 percent of first-choice votes is the winner. If no one gets that many votes, the candidate who got the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated -- and the votes of people who ranked that person first then go to their second-favorite choice. This continues until one candidate gets more than 50 percent of the votes and wins.

Voters often are advised to choose the person they like the best for the first slot, then their next-favorite candidate for the second slot -- and then for the third position, a popular candidate they would find acceptable. It's up to voters to make their own decisions about this, but this way a voter's input will still have impact even if the candidates he or she likes best are eliminated early.

The Department of Elections maintains a list of meetings about RCV. Events are scheduled nearly every day until Friday, Oct. 30 in a variety of neighborhoods. In addition, the department's Web site includes sample ballots and interactive demonstrations of how to vote using the RCV method.

Further help and information about ranked-choice voting is available through the Department of Elections. Visit the department Web site at, call (415) 554-4375 or drop by the department office in the basement of City Hall. Information is available in English, Spanish and Chinese. Voters shouldn't stay home Nov. 2 simply because they're not sure about the new method, but learning about it beforehand will make voting easier on Election Day.