Despite an ad campaign explaining the nuances of ranked-choice voting, many voters were confused Tuesday. Although citywide figures were not available, Jeff Olsen, a poll-worker trainer with the Department of Elections, noted that according to the printout produced by the voting equipment about 20 percent of ballots cast at one Bernal Heights polling place selected either the same candidate in all three columns or more than one candidate per column.
Olsen said that the machines that read ballots return a message if voters choose the same candidate three times. Voters are then given the option of revoting or casting the ballot as is. “Even if we tell them, ‘Don’t mark the same person,’ they do,” said Mary Beth Huffman, an inspector at that polling place. “They’re just putting the same person all the way across. They think they’re giving their guy more points.”
Under ranked-choice voting, voters should choose different candidates for their first, second and third choices. The second and third choices become relevant only if one candidate does not win outright and the voter’s first choice is eliminated from the contest.
Early reports suggested that turnout was low, officials said. The department mailed out 213,456 ballots as of Monday and had received only 69,749 back. Voters had until 8 p.m. to cast ballots at their assigned precincts or return mailed ballots.