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San Francisco County, CA March 5, 2002 Election
Proposition A
Instant Runoff Voting
City of San Francisco

Majority Vote Required

12,496 / 59.34% Yes votes ...... 8,562 / 40.66% No votes

See Also: Index of all Propositions

Information shown below: Summary | Fiscal Impact | Yes/No Meaning | Arguments | Full Text

Shall the City use instant run-off voting to elect City officers with a majority of votes without separate run-off elections?

Summary Prepared by San Francisco Department of Elections Voters Information Pamphlet:
The way it is now:

When the offices of the Mayor, City Attorney, District Attorney, Public Defender, Sheriff, Assessor-Recorder, Treasurer, and Board of Supervisors are up for election, voters may select only one candidate for each of these offices. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the votes cast for the office, the two candi-dates who receive the highest number of votes compete in a run-off election at a later date.

The Proposal:

Proposition A is a Charter amendment that would require the City to use an instant run-off voting method that would eliminate separate run-off elections. A winner would still have to receive more than 50% of the vote.

With this method, each voter would have the opportunity to rank at least a first, second, and third choice among the candidates for each office. The votes would be counted in rounds. If one candidate received more than 50% of the first-choice votes in the first round, then that candidate would be elected. If no candidate received more than 50% of the first-choice votes, the candidate who received the fewest first-choice votes would be eliminated. All voters whose first choice was eliminated would have their vote transferred to their second-choice candidate. This process of transferring votes to the voter's next-choice candidate and eliminating candidates with the fewest votes would be repeated until one candidate received more than 50% of the votes.

The City would start using the instant run-off voting method in November 2002. If the Department of Elections were not ready to use the new method in November 2002, the City would start using it in November 2003.

How Supervisors Voted on "A" On July 9, 2001

The Board of Supervisors voted 10 to 1 to place Proposition A on the ballot.

The Supervisors voted as follows:

Yes: Ammiano, Daly, Gonzalez, Hall, Leno, Maxwell, McGoldrick, Newsom, Peskin, Sandoval

No: Yee

Fiscal Impact:
City Controller Edward Harrington has issued the following statement on the fiscal impact of Proposition A:

Should the proposed charter amendment be approved by the voters, in my opinion, it would save the City a net amount of approximately $1.6 million annually beginning in Fiscal Year 2002-03 by eliminating the need for run-off elections. Instant run-off voting may require additional bal-lot pages, voter education, and modifications to the City's voting technology. However, these costs would be more than offset by the savings associated with eliminating run-off elections.

Meaning of Voting Yes/No
A YES vote of this measure means:
If you vote yes, you want the City to use an instant run-off voting method to elect City officers and eliminate separate run-off elections.

A NO vote of this measure means:
If you vote no, you do not want the City to use an instant run-off voting method to elect City officers and eliminate separate run-off elections.

  Nonpartisan Information

League of Women Voters of San Francisco


KQED-FM 88.5 Public Radio

  • Radio Discussion of Prop A - RealAudio archive of Forum program aired 2/18/02 (1 hour) hosted by Michael Krasny. Guests: Dennis Antenore, Steven Hill, and Tammy Haygood.
    (Opens in new window). Part of KQED.org election coverage
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Arguments For Proposition A Arguments Against Proposition A
Proposition A will allow San Francisco to elect candidates supported by a popular majority without needing expensive, low- turnout December runoff elections. This will SAVE $2 MILLION TAX DOLLARS PER YEAR, RAISE VOTER TURNOUT and REDUCE NEGATIVE CAMPAIGNING Last December s runoff had a voter turnout of only FIFTEEN PERCENT --the lowest in San Francisco s history. December is an awful time for an election. Voters are busy with holiday plans, and don t even realize the runoff is happening. Voter turnout usually declines. Runoffs are costly to taxpayers. The December runoff for city attorney cost nearly $ 2 MILLION, an average of $ 29 per voter. This money could be better spent on other city services threatened with cutbacks in our ailing economy. Previous runoff elections have seen excessive negative campaigning and hit pieces. Such mudslinging is common when the field is reduced to two candidates, and candidates can win by attacking their lone opponent rather than attracting voters. 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.

Proposition A implements instant runoff voting to fulfill the goal of electing majority winners without the inconvenience of a second election. The instant runoff works much like December s delayed runoff. Voters indicate their favorite candidate, just like now. But at the same time they also rank their runoff choices, 1, 2, 3. This eliminates the need for a separate runoff election. By doing it in one election, we produce winners who have majority of the vote and save millions of tax dollars. And we avoid the considerable headaches of a second election during the busy holiday season. Proposition A will make our elections more EFFICIENT and LESS EXPENSIVE

San Francisco Board of Supervisors

How Supervisors Voted to Submit this Argument
The Supervisors voted as follows on December 17, 2001:

Yes: Ammiano, Daly, Gonzalez, Hall, Leno, Maxwell, McGoldrick

No: Newsom, Peskin, Sandoval, Yee

Rebuttal to Arguments For
We agree with the Proponents on just one point # December is an awful time for an election. Where we differ is that the cure being proposed is far worse than the disease, and that the less drastic alternatives of changing the dates for primaries and run-off elections would ensure higher voter turnout, without the adverse side-effects that would occur under Instance Run-off Voting. These side-effects were articulated, in a paid rgument by the former members of the Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections. Additionally, we do not believe that the Board should be experimenting with San Franciscans hard fought right to vote. Primaries and run-off elections have served our nation well for most of its history. Preference Voting ( IRV) was in vogue in the 1930 s and 1940 s in some parts of the United States but has been abandoned almost every place where it has been tried. It is still used for school board elections in New York City, where the turnouts typically are about 10-12% . So much for the Proponents argument for increasing turnouts. We urge you to join a broad coalition of community leaders who have united to oppose Proposition A, including: Dennis Antenore, Christopher L. Bowman, Ed Canapary, Donald A. Casper, Doug Comstock, Mike DeNunzio, Larry Griffin, Kathleen A. Grogan, Susan Horsfall, Tom Hsieh, Jr. , Marcel Kapulica, Charles Marsteller, Jane Morrison, David Spero, and Jim Stearns. Vote No on Proposition A.

Supervisor Gavin Newsom Supervisor Leland Yee, Ph. D. Julio Ramos J. D., Member, SF Community College Board

Instant Runoff Responding to low voter turnout in the December 2000 run-off election, the majority of the Board of Supervisors placed Proposition A on the ballot. Unfortunately, Proposition A is not reform but a return to the days of power brokers and back-room deals. Proposition A is brought to you by the same people who proposed "Preference Voting" which was resoundingly defeated by San Francisco voters in 1996. They have relabeled their flawed product "Instant Run-off Voting", and have convinced the Board of Supervisors on its "merits" by arguing that "IRV" will reduce the cost to taxpayers and eliminate negative campaigning. What they don't say is that Proposition A will enrich for-profit slate card organizations, increase the cost of campaigns, reduce meaningful debate on issues and hide ideological differences, and effectively disenfranchise language minorities and people with limited education. Rather than have the majority rule, Proposition A could actually reduce the actual number of voters who decide elections to a smaller portion than currently go to the polls in run-off elections. So, how do we address low voter turnout in December run-off elections? There are several alternatives that the Board of Supervisors should have entertained. First, move the primary for District Supervisors to March in even-numbered years, when city voters decide the nominees for State and Federal offices, and hold the run-off election in the high-voter turnout General Election in November. Second, move the primary in odd-numbered years, to the Tuesday eight days or fifteen days after Labor Day in September, and hold the run-off election in November. Third, move the primary in odd-numbered years to the week-end or second weekend after Labor Day when most people aren't working. There's better ways to reform the system. Vote No on Proposition A.

Christopher L. Bowman Member Citizens Advisory Committee on Elections, 1993-2001

Rebuttal to Arguments Against
The Democratic Party, The Green Party, many leading Independents and over two dozen organizations are backing Proposition A because it is a "good government" measure that will capitalize on November elections when voter turn-out is higher, reduce negative campaigning, save millions of dollars, and make inconvenient December runoffs unnecessary. The opposing argument is from a leader in the Republican Party, one of the few organizations opposing this measure. The distortions in the Republicans' ballot argument are many. Proposition A doesn't increase the cost of campaigns, or enrich slate cards or power brokers; it ELIMINATES the need for candidates to raise more money for a second election, that's why leading campaign finance reformers like Common Cause support it. Prop A doesn't reduce the number of voters deciding elections; it makes the decisive election in NOVEMBER, when voter turnout is HIGHEST. That's why citizen groups like California Public Interest Research Group and Senior Action Network support it. Contrary to claims, the Board of Supervisors DID explore other options, and decided that instant runoff voting (IRV) is the best, cheapest and most convenient method; and IRV has

NEVER been voted on in San Francisco. Also, Proposition A will not disenfranchise language minorities. In fact, the Asian-American Legal Defense and Education Fund, a prominent voting rights organization, has written, "Instant runoff voting could be used in San Francisco to benefit language minority communities in the November elections." Visit http://www.ImproveTheRunoff.org for a demonstration of how IRV works and for more information.

Matt Gonzalez San Francisco Board of Supervisors

How Supervisors Voted to Submit this Argument Supervisor Gonzalez submitted this rebuttal argument on behalf of the Board of Supervisors.

On December 17, 2001, the Supervisors voted as follows to authorize Supervisor Gonzalez to prepare and submit the rebuttal argument on their behalf.

Yes: Ammiano, Daly, Gonzalez, Hall, Leno, Maxwell, McGoldrick, Newsom, Peskin, Sandoval, Yee

Full Text of Proposition A
You can find the Full Text Version of Measure A on page 45 of the San Francisco Department of Elections Voter Information Pamphlet and Sample Ballot.

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Created: April 19, 2002 10:59 PDT
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