San Francisco mayoral election results to be released sooner than before 

click to enlarge San Francisco voters could find out the results of the mayoral election more quickly than has been the case in past elections. (Examiner file photo) - SAN FRANCISCO VOTERS COULD FIND OUT THE RESULTS OF THE MAYORAL ELECTION MORE QUICKLY THAN HAS BEEN THE CASE IN PAST ELECTIONS. (EXAMINER FILE PHOTO)
  • San Francisco voters could find out the results of the mayoral election more quickly than has been the case in past elections. (Examiner file photo)
  • San Francisco voters could find out the results of the mayoral election more quickly than has been the case in past elections. (Examiner file photo)

San Franciscans may find out who their next mayor is sooner following a decision by the Department of Elections to release voting results earlier than in the past.

Previously, the Department of Elections has refused to release results under The City’s ranked-choice voting system — which allows voters to cast ballots for their first, second and third choices in a race — until the Friday after an election, keeping people in the dark about voting trends for 72 hours.

Ranked-choice supporters have advocated releasing the data as early as possible, even on election night.

But Elections Department head John Arntz said officials preferred to focus on counting the ballots before taking time out of the process to run preliminary ranked-choice results, which can be time consuming.

Under the ranked-choice system, if no one candidate gains more than 50 percent of voters’ first choices, then second and third choices are factored in.

Amid the calls for an earlier release, Arntz said he will make the preliminary ranked-choice tabulations public the day after the election. “The next day we will run the [ranked-choice voting] algorithm and then also on Thursday, then also on Friday,” Arntz said.

The change comes as there are 16 candidates in the mayoral race with 11 strong contenders, none of whom is expected to get the more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes for an outright win. With the earlier release of  results, candidates, residents and reporters will know who is most likely to prevail in the race, seeing trends on where voters’ second- and third-place votes are going.

This is the first year ranked-choice voting will come into play in San Francisco’s mayoral race. The City’s instant-runoff system has been used in contests for the Board of Supervisors since 2004.

Members of the Elections Commission have expressed some concerns about an earlier release. Elections Commissioner Gerard Gleason said he wanted “to be transparent but not give people a false impression.” No results are final until all the ballots are counted and the election is certified, which takes weeks.

The policy change would reduce the kind of surprise effect in last year’s Oakland mayoral race. Candidate former state Sen. Don Perata had a sizeable lead based on first-choice votes, but three days later when the ranked-choice tabulation was released, Councilwoman Jean Quan emerged as the top vote-getter.

jsabatini@sfexaminer.com


Voting process

How ranked-choice voting works:

  • Voters pick three candidates, ranking them one, two and three.
  • If no candidate receives more than 50 percent of first-place votes, ranked choice goes into effect.
  • The candidate who receives the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated and the second-choice votes for that eliminated candidate are then redistributed.
  • Elimination of last-place candidates and factoring of second- and third-place choices continues until one candidate gains a majority.

Source: Department of Elections

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