Sixteen percent of San Francisco voters who filled out their ballots correctly and completely — more than 31,500 people — did not have a say in the final outcome of the city’s mayoral race, according to The Bay Citizen’s analysis of election results.
Their ballots were discarded or exhausted, because they did not list either Ed Lee, the eventual winner, or runner-up John Avalos as one of their top three candidates. Unlike other cities, San Francisco does not allow voters to rank all the candidates on the ballot.
The analysis renews questions about the fairness of the city’s ranked-choice voting system at a time when supervisors are considering repealing it. Critics of the system say it quietly disenfranchises a significant percentage of voters, because those voters cannot fully express their preferences. San Francisco’s voting machines only allowed voters to select three of the 16 candidates on the ballot.
“When you have more candidates like this and you constrain the number of choices to three, you have a lot of exhausted ballots and a less than ideal election,” said Corey Cook, a political science professor at the University of San Francisco, who is working with The Bay Citizen to analyze the election results.