Gone are the days when voting was as simple as voting for the best person you most want to see serve. When voters head to the polls on Nov. 8, they will be asked to vote for not only who they want to win the most to serve as San Francisco’s mayor, but also their second and third choices.
For a chart detailing how ranked-choice voting played a role in Jean Quan’s surprise Oakland mayoral election victory, click on the photo to the right.
This way of voting for San Francisco’s mayor has yet to be tested in a citywide race — this is the first time what is known as ranked-choice voting will come into play in the race for The City’s top post.
There’s a lot of guesswork being done by candidates in the crowded field and by political insiders on how it will impact the results.
It was voters themselves who decided to use this system of voting when they approved Proposition A in March 2002.
When a candidate in a race does not receive more than 50 percent of the vote, then ranked-choice voting, which is sometimes called instant runoff, is used. While the system was in place for Mayor Gavin Newsom’s re-election bid in 2007, it wasn’t a factor since he won easily, gaining a majority of people’s first-choice votes. It has been used to decide the winners in elections for members of the Board of Supervisors.
Proponents of the 2002 measure said that eliminating a runoff election reduces city costs along with a December runoff election when less voters will show up to vote.
“The purpose of the runoff — to ensure majority support for winners — is a good one, but huge declines in voter turnout, high costs, and negative campaigning undermine this worthy goal,” the ballot measure said.
With only two candidates in a runoff mudslinging reaches new heights, but if a candidate needs to count on voters second or third choices, they don’t want to upset supporters with negative campaigning.