Ranked-Choice Voting Too Complicated For Some

It's not easy to pick your top three politicians, according to some San Francisco voters.

By Chris Roberts
|  Wednesday, Nov 9, 2011  |  Updated 12:41 PM PDT
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The Mayor, District Attorney and Sheriff's races not decided tonight.

The Mayor, District Attorney and Sheriff's races not decided tonight.

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Quick -- name your three favorite restaurants. Easy. Now name your three favorite chain coffee stores. No problem. So how about the top three politicians you'd like to have run the region's hub?

That, it appears, is too much choice.

The ranked-choice voting system -- in which a runoff election a month after the November polls is eliminated in favor of an "instant-runoff" -- continues to confuse San Francisco voters, according to the San Francisco Examiner.

"Many voters were confused," the newspaper reported, adding that at one Bernal Heights polling place, "about 20 percent of voters" made errors.

Mistakes with a ranked-choice ballot include voting for the same candidate three times. If that happens, the ballot is returned and the voter has the option of re-voting. And despite an ad campaign, printed instructions in the Voter Information Guide, and instructions at the polling place, that continues to happen, the newspaper reported.

"Even if we tell them, 'Don’t mark the same person,' they do," said Mary Beth Huffman, an inspector at that polling place. "They’re just putting the same person all the way across. They think they’re giving their guy more points."

This election is the first contested San Francisco mayoral race to feature ranked-choice voting, which has been a staple of elections for the Board of Supervisors since 2004. Voters approved the process -- at the ballot, with a simple yes/no vote -- in 2002.

In recent years, the process has come under attack. For example, Jean Quan won the job of mayor of Oakland with ranked-choice voting over Don Perata, who had the most first-place votes. Supervisor Mark Farrell introduced legislation Tuesday to eliminate ranked-choice voting.

For now, here is the latest vote count.

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