Two dueling ballot measures to change San Francisco’s election system will go in front of the city’s Board of Supervisors on Tuesday.
San Francisco’s current ranked-choice voting system allows voters to rank up to three candidates for each elected office, and those with the lowest vote totals are eliminated and their second- and third-place votes are reassigned until someone has a majority of the votes.
But the two charter amendments being considered by the board to put on the June ballot are proposing to either overhaul the current system or make small tweaks and keep ranked-choice voting in the city.
The proposal to scuttle the current system, sponsored by Supervisors Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell, would set up in its place a non-partisan primary in September of a given election year.
If no candidate received 65 percent of the vote for a given office, a run-off would be held in November between the top two candidates, according to the proposal.
The measure is necessary, according to Farrell, who said when the measure was considered by the board’s rules committee on Jan. 26 that the current system is too confusing for voters, particularly those in poorer parts of the city.
A second charter amendment, sponsored by Supervisors John Avalos and David Campos, would keep the ranked-choice voting system in place, while consolidating the city’s odd-year elections into a single year.
Currently, the city attorney and city treasurer are elected two years apart from the mayor, district attorney and sheriff, but they would all be on the same ballot starting in 2015, according to the proposal.
The proposal would also require the city’s Department of Elections to do more outreach to educate voters about the ranked-choice system and call on the Department of Elections to purchase a voting system that allows for more than three candidates to be ranked.
Campos said at the same committee hearing last month that “a better approach is not to eliminate (ranked-choice voting), but simply to make a good system better.”
Mayor Ed Lee, who topped a field of 16 candidates in last November’s mayoral election, said today he was in favor of reforming the system but would not say whether he supported one charter amendment or the other.
Lee said the system, along with the large number of candidates led to a lot of confusion.
“Even though I won, I still say more people could have been less confused about it,” he said.
Avalos’ measure would save the city an estimated $1 million per year while the ballot measure to get rid of the ranked-choice voting system would cost the city an additional $2.6 million annually, according to the city controller’s office.
But Lee said a more expensive option might be “worth the money” if it is simpler for voters.
“People exercise this valuable right, they should not enter into any level of confusion,” he said.
Both charter amendments need the approval of a majority of supervisors to get on the June ballot. If both measures make it on the ballot and are approved by voters, the measure with the higher number of votes would take effect.
Supervisors will consider the two charter amendments at their regularly scheduled meeting at 2 p.m. Tuesday in board chambers at City Hall.
Dan McMenamin, Bay City News