Just in time for election season, a federal judge has ruled that the ranked-choice voting system, which San Francisco has used since 2004, is perfectly legal.
San Francisco’s elections law was challenged earlier this year when Sunset district resident Ron Dudum, who narrowly lost to embattled former Supervisor Ed Jew during the 2006 election for the Board of Supervisors, filed a lawsuit charging that the system’s limitation to three ranked choices violated the U.S. Constitution.
The ruling was issued by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg on Sept. 9, concluding that while the current voting system does “exert some burden on voting rights, it is not severe.” The complaint alleges that under the system implemented in 2004 thousands of voters during elections are denied the right to vote “once his or her three ranked candidates are eliminated from contention.”
Under the system, voters rank the top three candidates they would most like to see in office. When votes are counted, any candidate who gets more than 50 percent of first-choice votes is the winner. If no one gets that many votes, the candidate who got the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and the votes of people who ranked that person first then go to their No. 2 choice.