vote_lede_template.jpgAttorneys challenging San Francisco’s instant runoff voting system have appealed a federal judge’s recent dismissal of their case.

Attorneys representing the plaintiffs–six citizens, including former Board of Supervisors candidate Ron Dudum–said today that they appealed U.S. District Judge Richard Seeborg’s ruling earlier this month to the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday.

The instant runoff system, also known as ranked-choice voting, allows voters to rank three choices in each race.

If no candidate wins a majority, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated, and the votes are transferred to the second choice of each resident who voted for that candidate. The process continues until one candidate achieves a majority of votes.

The system applies to races for mayor, supervisor, district attorney, city attorney, sheriff, public defender, treasurer and assessor-recorder.

San Francisco voters approved instant runoff voting in 2002, and it was implemented in 2004. It was intended to avoid costly separate runoff elections and possible low voter turnout for those elections.

The plaintiffs argued that the system violates their constitutional voting rights.

They claimed it was unfair because in races with more than three contenders, voters whose candidates are eliminated in early rounds of ballot counting have no say in the final rounds.

But Seeborg ruled that even though a voter’s choice may be eliminated, “he or she still participates in and affects the election.”

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said they are seeking an expedited hearing before the appeals court.

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  • Veronica

    This will be an interesting appeal.

    However, the articles Author describes Ranked Choice Voting incorrectly.

    “The process continues until one candidate achieves a majority of votes”

    Seeborg ruled “ballot exhaustion, of course, can mean that the ultimate winner is elected with less than a true majority….. the 2008 election where candidates were elected on all four supervisorial races in play with less than a true majority”

    It will be interesting to see the results of District 10, where 21 candidates are running to se if more people voted against the winner – not a true majority.

  • Veronica

    This will be an interesting appeal.

    However, the articles Author describes Ranked Choice Voting incorrectly.

    “The process continues until one candidate achieves a majority of votes”

    Seeborg ruled “ballot exhaustion, of course, can mean that the ultimate winner is elected with less than a true majority….. the 2008 election where candidates were elected on all four supervisorial races in play with less than a true majority”

    It will be interesting to see the results of District 10, where 21 candidates are running to se if more people voted against the winner – not a true majority.

  • Kathy Dopp

    It is *not* true that: “The process continues until one candidate achieves a majority of votes”

    In fact, San Francisco and other jurisdictions that have implemented IRV have been forced to eliminate prior legal requirements for majority winners. IRV typically eliminates so many voters’ ballots prior to the final counting round that typically winners have around 40% to 45% of the vote. Anytime the number of candidates running is greater than the number of ballot choices (usually 3) plus one, voters are involuntarily excluded from participating in the final IRV decision round.

    IRV is the only alternative voting method proposed that fails more of Arrow’s Fairness criteria for elections than first-past-the-post, plurality voting because IRV removes the right of the voter to cast a vote that helps, rather than hurts a candidate’s chances of winning. In IRV, adding more votes to a candidate’s total may cause that candidate to lose, whereas he otherwise would have won! IRV also does *not* eliminate the spoiler effect and is in virtually every way a step backwards from plurality elections because it tends to eliminate majority-favored centrist candidates and elect extreme candidates (left or right) due to its unequal treatment of voters’ votes (counting the 2nd and 3rd choices only of some voters when their 1st choice is eliminated.)

  • Kathy Dopp

    It is *not* true that: “The process continues until one candidate achieves a majority of votes”

    In fact, San Francisco and other jurisdictions that have implemented IRV have been forced to eliminate prior legal requirements for majority winners. IRV typically eliminates so many voters’ ballots prior to the final counting round that typically winners have around 40% to 45% of the vote. Anytime the number of candidates running is greater than the number of ballot choices (usually 3) plus one, voters are involuntarily excluded from participating in the final IRV decision round.

    IRV is the only alternative voting method proposed that fails more of Arrow’s Fairness criteria for elections than first-past-the-post, plurality voting because IRV removes the right of the voter to cast a vote that helps, rather than hurts a candidate’s chances of winning. In IRV, adding more votes to a candidate’s total may cause that candidate to lose, whereas he otherwise would have won! IRV also does *not* eliminate the spoiler effect and is in virtually every way a step backwards from plurality elections because it tends to eliminate majority-favored centrist candidates and elect extreme candidates (left or right) due to its unequal treatment of voters’ votes (counting the 2nd and 3rd choices only of some voters when their 1st choice is eliminated.)

  • Dave Kadlecek

    The quotation from Judge Seeborg’s opinion is misleading, in that the ellipses hide “Plaintiffs point, for example, to”. What might appear to be the judge explaining the context of his opinion is actually his explaining one of the plaintiffs’ arguments before rejecting it, noting that “[t]he undisputed evidence also indicates that San Francisco’s system often does produce winners with majority support.”

    In all IRV elections, the winning candidate does achieve a majority of the continuing votes, though not necessarily a majority of all those who cast a ballot in the race.

    In the four 2008 races (leaving out three that were won in the first round) highlighted as problematic by Veronica and the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the winners’ final round vote totals were 45.74%, 49.94%, 47.71% and 41.44% of the valid first round ballots.

    2000 was the most recent comparable election (electing supervisors by district in an election consolidated with a Presidential election) to 2008 in which the previous two-round runoff method was used. This is the method the plaintiffs said San Francisco would be required to use if they were to win their lawsuit, absent any further changes to the city charter. In the nine 2000 races (of eleven) not won in the first round, final round vote totals were 30.92%, 34.19%, 34.34%, 34.47%, 45.21%, 30.87%, 28.02%, 29.79% and 38.98% of the first round ballots. None of these nine 2000 supervisorial winners won with “true majorities” of all ballots cast in their races, and only one achieved a percentage of first round ballots as high as the lowest of a 2008 IRV winner.

    While neither guarantees that the runoff winner has a majority of all ballots cast in the race, just a majority of those counted in the runoff round, the evidence shows that Ranked Choice Voting (i.e., Instant Runoff Voting) winners generally have higher proportions of the first round vote totals than two-round runoff winners in similar races.

  • Dave Kadlecek

    The quotation from Judge Seeborg’s opinion is misleading, in that the ellipses hide “Plaintiffs point, for example, to”. What might appear to be the judge explaining the context of his opinion is actually his explaining one of the plaintiffs’ arguments before rejecting it, noting that “[t]he undisputed evidence also indicates that San Francisco’s system often does produce winners with majority support.”

    In all IRV elections, the winning candidate does achieve a majority of the continuing votes, though not necessarily a majority of all those who cast a ballot in the race.

    In the four 2008 races (leaving out three that were won in the first round) highlighted as problematic by Veronica and the plaintiffs’ attorneys, the winners’ final round vote totals were 45.74%, 49.94%, 47.71% and 41.44% of the valid first round ballots.

    2000 was the most recent comparable election (electing supervisors by district in an election consolidated with a Presidential election) to 2008 in which the previous two-round runoff method was used. This is the method the plaintiffs said San Francisco would be required to use if they were to win their lawsuit, absent any further changes to the city charter. In the nine 2000 races (of eleven) not won in the first round, final round vote totals were 30.92%, 34.19%, 34.34%, 34.47%, 45.21%, 30.87%, 28.02%, 29.79% and 38.98% of the first round ballots. None of these nine 2000 supervisorial winners won with “true majorities” of all ballots cast in their races, and only one achieved a percentage of first round ballots as high as the lowest of a 2008 IRV winner.

    While neither guarantees that the runoff winner has a majority of all ballots cast in the race, just a majority of those counted in the runoff round, the evidence shows that Ranked Choice Voting (i.e., Instant Runoff Voting) winners generally have higher proportions of the first round vote totals than two-round runoff winners in similar races.

  • Dave Kadlecek

    We still haven’t been told who is paying for the high-priced lawyers (James Parrinello, a named partner in the firm Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor) representing the plaintiffs, first at the district court level and now on appeal.

    I doubt it’s Ron Dudum, the only one of the plaintiffs named in this article, as he knows he can’t win in Supervisorial District 4 no matter what the election method. He ran in 2000 under a two-round runoff system and didn’t make the runoff. He ran again in 2002 under a two-round runoff system and lost in the runoff. He ran again in 2006 under RCV and lost in the fourth round of counting. He ran again in 2008 under RCV and lost in the first round of counting. The seat is up again this year, but this time the incumbent is unopposed.

    My bet is that real estate interests are behind the lawsuit, on the basis that their money will have a better opportunity to buy elections in two-round runoffs. Several of Dudum’s co-plaintiffs are actively involved with San Francisco’s main landlord association, and Parrinello often represents landlord groups seeking to overturn local rent control and eviction control ordinances throughout California.

  • Dave Kadlecek

    We still haven’t been told who is paying for the high-priced lawyers (James Parrinello, a named partner in the firm Nielsen, Merksamer, Parrinello, Mueller & Naylor) representing the plaintiffs, first at the district court level and now on appeal.

    I doubt it’s Ron Dudum, the only one of the plaintiffs named in this article, as he knows he can’t win in Supervisorial District 4 no matter what the election method. He ran in 2000 under a two-round runoff system and didn’t make the runoff. He ran again in 2002 under a two-round runoff system and lost in the runoff. He ran again in 2006 under RCV and lost in the fourth round of counting. He ran again in 2008 under RCV and lost in the first round of counting. The seat is up again this year, but this time the incumbent is unopposed.

    My bet is that real estate interests are behind the lawsuit, on the basis that their money will have a better opportunity to buy elections in two-round runoffs. Several of Dudum’s co-plaintiffs are actively involved with San Francisco’s main landlord association, and Parrinello often represents landlord groups seeking to overturn local rent control and eviction control ordinances throughout California.

  • Josh

    There are real problems with IRV/CRV as the way to go about voting.

    As seen here:

    http://auros.livejournal.com/221026.html

    Which is a good breakdown of how one loses their vote by using this system.

  • Josh

    There are real problems with IRV/CRV as the way to go about voting.

    As seen here:

    http://auros.livejournal.com/221026.html

    Which is a good breakdown of how one loses their vote by using this system.