Tag Archives: Ranked Choice Voting

Update: How the West was won? Mayor Ed Lee’s an elected after a Ranked Choice victory in San Francisco

 I’ve lauded Ed Lee for reaching “Gold Mountain,” when he was named interim. That alone was a tremendous accomplishment for the community lawyer turned bureaucrat. But his evolution to “elected” is all the more fascinating because of Ranked Choice Voting.

RCV is process that redistributes the votes, working from the bottom up.  Each time a last placed candidate was eliminated in the field of 16, a voter’s second choice is distributed accordingly to the named candidate still alive in the race.

Lee, who led at the end of election night Tuesday with  31 percent of the vote to Avalos’ 18 percent, was stalled with just 38 percent of the vote as the RCV vote count was underway Wednesday.

But Lee’s stock rose in round 7 when Public Defender Jeff Adachi was eliminated.

Adachi’s second place votes went mostly to City Attorney Ed Herrera, who got 2,100. Board President David Chiu had  1,721. But Lee did better with 1,935.

Lee’s ability to amass a large number of No.2 votes, particularly from the other top Asian American candidates’ ballots was significant.

In round 8, when State Senator Leland Yee was eliminated,  Herrera took 2,092 of Yee’s second choice votes.  Chiu took 2,275.  But again, Lee got the most from Yee:  2,992 second place votes.

In round 9, Chiu, who raised more than a million dollars and won the endorsement of the San Francisco Chronicle, was eliminated.  The winner of Chiu’s second choice votes were Herrera at 2,376, Avalos with 3,832.  And again, there was Lee getting a huge chunk, 5,894.

Remember Chiu ran only after Lee promised not to run, but then Lee ran anyway.  Lee was like a siphon on Chiu for first and second choice votes. In fact, Chiu’s seconds got Lee close to a majority with 49.02 percent of the votes, but it would take one more round to win it all.

In round 10, when Herrera was eliminated, 6,883 of his second place votes went to Avalos, the top name on the Democratic Party’s slate.  But again, there was Lee who took 4,705 No.2s from Herrera.

That’s all Lee needed to enter the 11th round with a whopping 61 percent, more than enough votes for a majority.

And that’s how the sausage was made.

Update: The above analysis was after first 11 rounds of Ranked Choice counts and re-distributions from Wednesday. 

Thursday’s  count added a 12th round which changed the numbers only slightly as Lee virtually held the same lead, 61 percent to Avalos’ 39 percent. But the race technically is over when Lee got 50 percent and 1 vote.

One interesting fact: Lee padded his vote count significantly by being the second choice for backers of Chiu, Yee and Adachi. Those sloppy seconds added nearly 20 percent to Lee’s total vote.

See my Amok column on the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund blog at www.aaldef.org/blog

You can drop the interim now:Ed Lee is San Francisco’s first elected Asian American mayor

The second choices have spoken: Ed Lee has 61 percent of the vote, more than enough for the majority needed to win the San Francisco mayoral election.

Supervisor John Avalos more than doubled his election night position with 39 percent of the vote, but it was not enough to keep Lee from making history.

The vote was released at 4pm, with an intial listing showing just provisional ballots counted on this day. It showed virtually no change. But when 11 rounds of Ranked Choice ballots were posted, Lee was named on enough second choice ballots to take a commanding 25,000 vote lead.

Avalos told KCBS radio he is not conceding the race as 35,000 ballots still remain uncounted. 

Until that concession comes, Lee technically is only the “presumptive” winner.

More results will be posted by the city at 4pm Thursday.

Ranked Choice to determine history in SF as Lee leads by 13 percent in first round of mayoral race

For whatever people may say about Ranked Choice Voting, it sure didn’t cut into the power of incumbency.

Even a short-time interim candidate has an enormous advantage as we witnessed with Ed Lee.

His vote pattern for the night was fairly predictable: A huge lead with nearly 40 percent of the early mail in vote,  and then a gradual settling to 31 percent (44,451 votes) by the time all the precincts were counted.

The showing of Supervisor John Avalos (26,447/18.7 percent), and City Attorney Dennis Herrera (15,967/1127 percent) were also somewhat predictable. In a Democratic town, both were one and two on the party slate card. A huge advantage and what some wondered was a racist tactic. Five key Asian American candidates, including the interim, and none get named to one of  the top two slots?

The real question mark was how the Asian American candidates would do on their own, and it seemed break  down by money raised. Boardof  Supervisor President David Chiu raised the most money in the least time compared to the other candidates overall. But without the party or incumbency behind him, he  managed only a  fourth place finish (12,655/8.93 percent).

State  Sen. Leland Yee was next with 10,595 votes, or  7.48 percent of the vote, perhaps showing how most of his ardent support in his two-county senate seat may be primarily in San Mateo County.

Public Defender Jeff Adachi was sixth with 9.075 votes or 6.41 percent.  Adachi filed his candidacy on the last day and was also tied to a bold but unpopular pension reform proposal  that also lost on Tuesday.

Just imagine if Ed Lee had kept his word to David Chiu and not run for Mayor.

Chiu just might be sitting were Lee is right now, leading—but not by a majority.

Instead,  the top 6 finishers have 65.5 percent of the vote.

That means that likely the bottom ten with 35 percent of the vote will determine if and when Ed Lee gets the majority he needs.

Lee sits at 31.38. If he’s on slightly more than 19 percent of the second choice ballots of the bottom 10 candidates, he wins. It may be over before we have to count  the No.2 choice of Yee at  5th place.

This is either the power of the folly of Ranked Choice Voting. The bottom folks have more power than you think. 

Wouldn’t it be better just to have a runoff? More costly, but perhaps more transparent and definitely easier to understand. 

RCV makes one wonder, “What the hell happened to my vote?”

The next tally is due by 4pm PST.

Monitors at SF Polls as voters try to make history–if Ranked Choice Voting lets them

As expected, California’s Secretary of State has sent monitors to roam polling places in San Francisco making sure there’s no funny business in today’s election. It’s a clear sign that someone is taking the allegations of voter fraud and ballot tampering in the campaign seriously.

Seven candidates urged the state to monitor the election after allegations of election misconduct were made against volunteers for interim Mayor Ed Lee. The blue-shirted “Ed Heads” were seen marking and taking ballots from Chinese-speaking voters. One source told me Lee was supposed to sign on to the letter to make it a united front by the top candidates against any improprieties.  In Ranked Choice Voting races, you are supposed to get that kind of collegiality.  But not here. Lee was left off the letter, as some of the also-rans apparently chose to make this a last minute and not so subtle attack on Mayor Interim.

It could backfire on everyone.

Lee may slip back as everybody’s No.2 or No. 3 choice and more easily win a majority.

Or as people are hoping, angry voters could leave him off the ballot entirely, creating a real “Hail Mary” situation in Ranked Choice Voting. No one has a majority and every ballots’ No.2 and No.3 comes into play until a majority is had.

History at first blush may have seemed partial to a first Asian American mayor with so many Asian American candidates. But in a RCV shootout, who knows who gets the No.2s and No.3s. It doesn’t have to be an Asian American.

Whatever, the whole thing seems more random than not, though RCV supporters will say it’s totally logical. They may be able to explain it step by step so it makes theoretical sense. But in the effort to save time and money (no more costly runoff elections, what a deal!), RCV adds a confusing layer of complexity that leads to distrust.  

You don’t need to understand the math to vote.  You just need to trust the vote.  RCV takes voter sentiment out of context.  A second and third choice could be different if they have no chance to win on a subsequent tally. 

It makes you yearn for a simpler, old-fashioned way. Instant runoff savings?  It may not be worth it if voters end up wondering what the hell happened to their vote.

See my blog post at www.aaldef.org/blog