Karla Jones knows that voting in the upcoming election for San Francisco mayor won’t be as simple as completing the arrow next to one name. She’ll have to pick a first, second and third-choice candidate. “It’s more choices to make and now you’ve got to get to know three of them,” Jones said on the first day City Hall opened for early voting in the Nov. 8 election for the city’s mayor, district attorney and sheriff.
Jones was there to pick up some brochures that explain the ranked-choice voting system — also known as the instant runoff — so she could better understand the process before returning to cast her vote. “It’s good for the city in terms of cost, but it’s harder on the voter,” Jones said with a sigh. “I’ve got to go home and study now.”
Some two dozen cities across the country have adopted or are considering ranked-choice as a means to curb costly runoffs and widen the candidate field, including Minneapolis, Portland, Maine, Telluride, Colo., Santa Fe, N.M., and Memphis, Tenn.
San Franciscans adopted it by proposition in 2002, hoping to save an estimated $15 million in runoff costs over 10 years.
But this is the first competitive election in which it could make a difference in the final tabulation. Former Mayor Gavin Newsom won re-election in 2007 with more than 70 percent of the vote, eliminating any need to start counting second- and third-choice votes.