San Francisco voters have trouble with ranked-choice elections.

From the New York Times: Analysis Finds Incorrect Use of Ranked-Choice Voting  <read>

We have often articulated our concerns with Instant Run-Off Voting also often called Ranked-Choice Voting. We have three concerns:

  • It requires more knowledge and expertise by voters, it can be confusing, and result in very large ballots
  • It can be difficult to calculate winners, recount, and audit, especially as more districts and jurisdictions are included in the same race
  • In theory and frequently in practice it does not provide the benefits claimed – like conventional voting, with more than two candidates, the winner is a crap-shoot.

This article provides some further confirmation of our concerns:

Despite a $300,000 educational campaign leading up to last month’s elections, including a new smiley-face mascot, publicity events, and advertising on buses and in newspapers, only one-third of voters on Nov. 8 filled out all three choices in all three races, according to an analysis released this week by the University of San Francisco.

Under the city’s system, voters were asked to rank their top three choices for mayor, sheriff and district attorney.

Perhaps the analysis’ most troubling finding is that 9 percent of voters, mostly in Chinatown and southeastern neighborhoods like the Bayview, marked only one choice for each office, either because they considered only one candidate suitable or because they did not know how to fill out their ballot correctly.

Many advocate or assume voters can rank all the candidates and claim that their will be more candidates in the race. Presumably the more to rank or choose from the more challenging for voters and those working to educate and encourage voters. And it does not seem to reduce the opportunities for candidates and voters to look to the system and manipulation to explain the result:

Mr. Latterman, an associate director of the Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good at U.S.F., said voters in neighborhoods with large black or Asian populations tended to vote for different candidates than residents in other parts of the city. But the Nov. 8 election was the first time researchers saw a geographic or perhaps ethnic difference in how people used ranked-choice voting.

The findings indicate one of two things, Mr. Latterman said: Either campaigns tried to manipulate the results by focusing on specific groups of people or there is not a clear understanding of how to use the system.

A recent Bay Citizen analysis revealed that 16 percent of ballots in the mayoral race — those of more than 31,500 people — were filled out correctly but were discarded when all of their chosen candidates were eliminated from the race. San Francisco does not allow voters to rank all the candidates on the ballot.

Our past posts on IRV <Index>



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