Top vote get­ter trails in SF mayor’s race

Manteca Bulletin - - Local / State -

SAN FRAN­CISCO (AP) — In San Fran­cisco, the can­di­date with the most first­place votes is trail­ing in a tight race for mayor.

London Breed, the pres­i­dent of San Fran­cisco’s Board of Su­per­vi­sors, is some 10 per­cent­age points ahead of for­mer state Sen. Mark Leno in votes for first-place. Yet, Leno was lead­ing Breed in the over­all race by 255 votes on Thurs­day.

How does this make any sense? San Fran­cisco uses a ranked-choice vot­ing sys­tem in which vot­ers also choose their sec­ond and third fa­vorites for mayor.

In this case, Leno has more first-place and sec­ond-place votes put to­gether than Breed.


In San Fran­cisco, vot­ers pick up to three can­di­dates in or­der of pref­er­ence on one bal­lot.

If no can­di­date has more than 50 per­cent of the vote out­right, elim­i­na­tion rounds be­gin. If a voter’s No. 1 pick is elim­i­nated, the voter’s No. 2 can­di­date gets that vote and so on un­til there’s a win­ner. Ranked-choice vot­ing has been used in San Fran­cisco since 2004 to elect the mayor, city at­tor­ney, board of su­per­vi­sors and other city­wide of­fices.

For­mer San Fran­cisco Mayor Gavin New­som, who is run­ning for Cal­i­for­nia gov­er­nor, says he finds the concept con­fus­ing and com­pli­cated.

“If you can ex­plain it to some­one in less than two hours, you have mas­tered an un­der­stand­ing of some­thing I have never fully un­der­stood,” he said.

IS RANKED-CHOICE VOT­ING USED ELSE­WHERE? A dozen city and county govern­ments use this kind of sys­tem, ac­cord­ing to FairVote, a non­par­ti­san elec­toral re­forms group based in Mary­land. A few San Fran­cisco Bay Area cities use the sys­tem, in­clud­ing Oak­land. It’s also used in Port­land, Maine, and in the Min­nesota cities of Min­neapo­lis and St, Paul.

Four other ju­ris­dic­tions are set to use ranked-choice vot­ing, in­clud­ing the state of Maine in its pri­mary on Tues­day where there are four fed­eral and state races with at least three can­di­dates. Races in­clude the Demo­cratic and Re­pub­li­can pri­maries for Maine gov­er­nor.

Cam­bridge, Mas­sachusetts, has elected slates of city coun­cil and school board us­ing an at-large form of ranked-choice vot­ing since 1941.

WHAT ARE THE BEN­E­FITS? Ad­vo­cates say the sys­tem pro­motes the elec­tion of a can­di­date who has a ma­jor­ity of sup­port through first- and sec­ond-place votes. On the flip side, it avoids the elec­tion of a can­di­date who has less than 50 per­cent of the vote.

Sup­port­ers also say the sys­tem avoids the cost of a sep­a­rate runoff elec­tion and en­cour­ages col­lab­o­ra­tion among can­di­dates.

In San Fran­cisco, Leno and Su­per­vi­sor Jane Kim en­cour­aged their sup­port­ers to pick the other for their No. 2. Leno is ben­e­fit­ing from the al­liance as he’s re­ceiv­ing the bulk of Kim’s votes. She is in third place.

WHAT ARE DRAW­BACKS? Ja­son McDaniel, as­so­ci­ate po­lit­i­cal sci­ence pro­fes­sor at San Fran­cisco State Univer­sity, says his re­search shows ranked-choice vot­ing in­creases the rate of bal­lot er­rors and dis­qual­i­fies bal­lots, par­tic­u­larly among lower-income res­i­dents.

Pick­ing a win­ner by ranked- choice could also raise the whiff of il­le­git­i­macy, he said, not­ing that Breed scored 36 per­cent of first-place votes city­wide.

“I do think it might have an ef­fect,” he said. “Look, only 26 per­cent of vot­ers chose Mark Leno, and that might hurt his le­git­i­macy go­ing for­ward, the per­cep­tion of that” if he be­comes mayor.

Still, turnout in San Fran­cisco could top 50 per­cent, which is higher than usual for re­cent June gu­ber­na­to­rial pri­maries and may­oral races.

And as ad­vo­cates point out, results show that far more peo­ple were con­fused by and over-voted in the gov­er­nor’s race than in the mayor’s race.

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