San Francisco

SF Rolls Out New Voting System to Give Voters More Options This November

In a move aimed at making the voting process more democratic, San Francisco will give voters new options this election season both in new equipment and in the voting process.

The city has 630 new vote counting machines, new touchscreen accessible voting screens, as well as changes to the ballot itself. Instead of connecting arrows, like on old ballots, the new ballots have a grid of ovals to fill in. But the biggest impact on voters is the new ranked-choice voting method ballot.

"We've got a new voting system coming to San Francisco starting with the 2019 election," said Elections Director John Arntz.

In the past, voters could rank their top three candidates in a race, but this November voters will be able to rank up to 10, depending on how many are running. According to election advocates, the new system expands voter options and eliminates the need for runoff elections, which historically have drawn fewer voters. Instead, the new system will count voters' rankings until one candidate has at least 50.1% of the vote.

"The aim of this is to give voters more choice on the ballot," said Pedro Hernandez of the group Fair Vote. "Some voters may have more than three preferences and we want to give them the option to be able to rank more candidates if they like."

Hernandez said that the new version will change how some candidates campaign.

"I would not be surprised to see candidates being more cordial to each other, and also reaching out beyond their base to get that second and third choice support," Hernandez said.

Arntz said the new system will also take a picture of each ballot and post it anonymously to the internet, giving voters a ringside seat for a democratic process in action.

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