Close race results may not be in for days 

S.F.’s ranked-choice voting may prove decisive in three of five supervisorial contests

San Francisco voters are unlikely to know the makeup of The City’s legislative body until Friday, even though preliminary results of most contests will come in election night.

Though voters will cast their votes today, it is likely that winners in at least three of five supervisorial races will not be reported, even preliminarily, for several days. Unless there is a clear majority winner, those races will be determined by The City’s ranked-choice voting system, the program for which will not be run until Friday, as was the case in November elections in 2004 and 2005.

First implemented in San Francisco in 2004, ranked-choice voting requires voters indicate their first three preferences, rather than simply voting for one candidate. If no one candidate garners more than 50 percent of the vote, an elimination process begins, wherein the candidate with the least first-choice votes is eliminated and the second choices of those who voted for him or her are factored into the count. That process is repeated until one candidate gains more than 50 percent of the vote.

Ranked-choice voting usually comes into play in close races, such as the District 6 contest, where incumbent Chris Daly faces more conservative Rob Black. Black has received some key endorsements from the police union and the mayor that might help him eke ahead of the supervisor.

Races with many candidates also often go to ranked choice. In District 4, six candidates battle to take the place of Supervisor Fiona Ma, who is vying for a seat in the state Assembly.

John Arntz, head of the Elections Department, said Monday that the ranked-choice program will not be run until Friday because elections workers must tally votes, including absentee and provisional ballots, in the meantime.

That will mean a lot of work for San Francisco poll workers this week. "It’s the largest ballot San Francisco’s ever had," Arntz said. Voters will have to slog through five ballot cards, four of which are double-sided, before they cast their votes.

While the turnaround time for preliminary results will not be as fast as it was before ranked-choice voting, it saves The City money on costly runoff elections. Elections generally cost The City between $3 million and $3.5 million, Arntz said. That extra ballot card will cost an extra $350,000 today.

Election 2006

» San Francisco polls will be open today from 7 a.m. until 8 p.m. Absentee ballots can be turned in at local polling stations.

» To locate your place, log onto the Department of Elections poll locator at http://gispubweb.sfgov.org/website/pollingplace/

» To track local election results, theDepartment of Elections will begin posting unofficial results at approximately 8:30 p.m. at (www.sfgov.org/election). SFGTV Channel 26 will also be reporting results for local contests. -Source: San Francisco Department of Elections.

amartin@examiner.com

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