Farrell seeks to replace ranked-choice voting with supermajority system 

click to enlarge The proposal would replace San Francisco's current means of choosing elected officials. - SF EXAMINER FILE PHOTO
  • SF Examiner file photo
  • The proposal would replace San Francisco's current means of choosing elected officials.

San Francisco voters could get the chance in November to eliminate ranked-choice voting for citywide races and replace with a system that not only brings back run-off elections but almost ensures that they will usually occur.

After failing last month to put a measure on the June ballot that would have eliminated ranked-choice voting in all local elections, on Tuesday Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced a November charter amendment that would eliminate it for all races except for supervisors.

Under Farrell’s proposal, elections for city- and countywide offices like mayor and district attorney would occur in September. And if no candidate received at least a 65 percent supermajority of the vote, then a November run-off election would be held between the two top vote-getters.

Before ranked-choice voting was approved by voters in March 2002, a simple majority of votes won an election outright in San Francisco.

Under ranked-choice voting, voters rank their top three candidates in each race. If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of the vote, the worst-performing candidates are culled from the pack and their voters redistributed until someone receives at least half the votes.

Farrell said he has the six votes to get his proposal on the ballot. His co-supporters are Supervisors Christina Olague, Sean Elsbernd, Carmen Chu, Malia Cohen and Scott Wiener.

Olague, who is seen as a more left-leaning board member, has seemingly broken from the progressive pack on the issue. “I’m OK with the compromise,” she said, “but I’m not OK with eliminating it all together.”

Farrell called the measure a step in the right direction. “Ranked-choice voting has continued to confuse and disenfranchise voters here for over a decade,” Farrell said. “It’s time to restore our voting system to the one-person, one-vote rule.”

Critics of ranked-choice voting say it creates confusion and leads to ballots being tossed out, multiple candidates who voters can’t differentiate between, and winners who haven’t actually received a majority of votes. But advocates of the system praise it for leveling the playing field, increasing voter participation, and reducing costs.


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