“What’s at stake [in this election]?” a somewhat-histrionic video released by former Board of Supervisors President Matt Gonzalez asked voters this month. “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.
By 4 p.m. Wednesday, 157,026 votes had been counted and tallied by the Department of Elections. Another 24,000-25,000 vote-by-mail ballots have yet to be counted, along with 7,500 provisional ballots, according to John Arntz, the Department of Election’s director.
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, according to records.
“40 percent isn’t abysmal, but neither is it anything to brag about,” political consultant Alex Clemens said. “San Francisco prides itself on being an activist, involved city, and this turnout doesn’t support that thesis particularly well.”
Turnout was 35.62 percent in 2007, when Mayor Gavin Newsom faced no serious opposition, and 45.67 percent in 2003, when Newsom and Gonzalez squared off.
Earlier media reports made hay of voter-turnout efforts in Chinatown, the Sunset, and other neighborhoods with a large Chinese population. These voters were seen to be the base for Mayor Ed Lee — though that theory appears to be exploded, as turnout was 33.33 percent in Chinatown and 38.25 in the Sunset, according to initial figures. Indeed, it appears the white vote buoyed Lee, as 44.65 percent of voters in the typically-moderate West of Twin Peaks voted, the city’s highest turnout by neighborhood, according to records.
Tony Winnicker, a spokesman for Mayor Ed Lee, did not return an email seeking comment.
Blame has been laid at everyone from the media to the candidates themselves for the low turnout.
Blame’s also been laid at ranked-choice voting, which for some voters is evidently “too confusing,” according to Supervisor Mark Farrell, who introduced a charter amendment to eliminate ranked-choice voting at the Board of Supervisor’s meeting Tuesday.
In this, Farrell may be able to count on the 42,492 San Franciscans whose votes didn’t count in Tuesday’s final tally for support. That’s how many votes were exhausted, meaning they were tallies for neither Avalos nor Lee.
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.
Now that’s a mandate. Though for what, we’re not sure.
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