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