Ranked-choice voting is great stuff if you want computerized elections, but lousy if you want democracy


Apparently only 8% of voters selected Lee as their first ranked or 2nd or 3rd, but that was enough for big-money-backed candidate Ed Lee to win, even though he had never run for office.

E-voting companies can really go to town using ranked choice voting.


How Ranked-Choice Voting Silenced 31,500 Voters
The Bay Citizen’s analysis of SF’s mayoral election reveals limits of the voting systemBy SHANE SHIFFLETT on November 23, 2011 – 5:15 p.m. PST

Sixteen percent of San Francisco voters who filled out their ballots correctly and completely — more than 31,500 people — did not have a say in the final outcome of the city’s mayoral race, according to The Bay Citizen’s analysis of election results.

Their ballots were discarded or exhausted, because they did not list either Ed Lee, the eventual winner, or runner-up John Avalos as one of their top three candidates. Unlike other cities, San Francisco does not allow voters to rank all the candidates on the ballot.

The analysis renews questions about the fairness of the city’s ranked-choice voting system at a time when supervisors are considering repealing it.

Read more.

3 thoughts on “Ranked-choice voting is great stuff if you want computerized elections, but lousy if you want democracy”

  1. Australia and Ireland have been using ranked choice voting for decades. Of course both nations use paper ballots. Both Ireland and Northern Ireland once used STV. Northern ireland abandoned it as soon as they could. The change led immediately to the long nightmare of campaigning by dividing one community against another.

    The system is fairer than first past the post, in particular preferential voting punishes divisive campaigning and ensures a wider range of candidates. The problem is not that ranked choice voting opens the door to electronic corruption of elections. The problem is that the US, for reasons that defy imagination, uses forms of privatised electronic voting that invite corruption under any system.

  2. Katie’s 8% is totally bogus. Ed Lee received 31% of the first round votes and 60% of the final round votes. The referenced article raises an important issue but does so in a rather biased manner.

    The best solution to the wasted votes the article describes is to upgrade the voting system so it allows voters to rank more than three candidates. Currently the 3-choice limitation is imposed by old scanning technology that can only detect voter marks in limited areas on the paper ballots.

    Even with that limitation, 73% of voters fully participated in the election. That’s not great, but it can be improved with equipment that was designed for ranked choice voting. On the other hand, if a traditional runoff had been used, at most 61% of voters would have fully participated. Traditional runoffs can’t do any better than that.

    In San Francisco, ranked choice voting has pioneered a greater level of election transparency. There is more work to do, regardless of what election method is used, but RCV has set some important precedents.

  3. Below are some two fascinating (short) articles about how Lee won and also where did I get that number, 8%, who successfully elected Ed Lee as SF’s next mayor. Only 8% of SF citizens, and less than 25% of the voters who voted, decided who became Mayor of SF because of the extremely low turnout per the article below.

    Furthermore, Lee won this election by massive get out the vote by absentee ballot, he was ahead 20,000 votes before polls opened on Nov 8th. Runner up John Avalos actually got more votes than Lee from the people who voted Nov. 8.

    SF Election: Turnout Lowest-Ever For Contested Mayoral Race


    “In other words, 112,275 voters — or less than 25 percent of the electorate — decided who became mayor of San Francisco. And of them, 68,721 — or about 14 percent of the electorate, and about eight percent of the citizenry — actually voted for Mayor Ed Lee.”

    “What’s at stake [in this election]?” per a recently released video discussing this by former SF Board of Supervisor Matt Gonzalez who lost in a mayoral bid against Gavin Newsom. “No less than the future of San Francisco.”

    If that’s the case, the city’s voters are living in the now. As in, San Franciscans don’t give a shit about voting. Now.

    That means total turnout is about 185,000-190,000, or about 40 percent of the 464,026 San Franciscans registered to vote. That’s the lowest-ever turnout for a contested mayoral election


    Ed Lee’s absentee coup

    The most remarkable number in the election results was clear before a single election-day ballot was counted. The absentee ballots were released around 8:30 p.m., and they were stunning: Ed Lee has 26,621 votes. The nearest competitor, John Avalos, was at 7,080.

    That’s right — Lee was almost 20,000 votes ahead before election day. And that turned out to be the margin of victory — Avalos actually got more votes than Lee from the people who voted Nov. 8.

    The reason Lee is likely to be the next mayor is because — through a combination of traditonal hard work on identifying supporters and getting them to vote by mail and quite possibly some degree of illegal conduct — he had 26,000 votes in the bag long before the polls opened.

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