Alicia Garza & Esperanza Tervalon-Daumont Article about Big Money Campaign Against Instant Runoff Voting in San Francisco

Esperanza Tervalon-Daumont and Alicia Garza have this article in New America Media, explaining that the San Francisco Chronicle and the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce have been carrying on a public relations campaign against Instant Runoff Voting in San Francisco and Oakland. The article does not mention the lawsuit against San Francisco’s Instant Runoff Voting system, but that lawsuit is also part of the campaign against IRV. It is called Dudum v City and County of San Francisco.

The same law firm, Nielsen Merksamer, that is trying to overturn IRV in San Francisco, is the same law firm defending California’s top-two election system in the lawsuits Field v Bowen and Chamness v Bowen. Thanks to Rob Richie for the link to the article.


Alicia Garza & Esperanza Tervalon-Daumont Article about Big Money Campaign Against Instant Runoff Voting in San Francisco — 16 Comments

  1. The second-largest party (in San Francisco: Republicans) and their allies (for Republicans, the local Chamber of Commerce) will always oppose IRV.

    In Texas, it would be Democrats and labor unions funding the same attacks.

    Under a strong two-party system, IRV fixes vote-splitting. But no one seems to actually LIKE having a strong two-party system, and IRV provides no actual help to third parties, no particular help to minorities, and has no particular effect on campaign spending.

  2. #2, you should acknowledge that IRV provides a tremendous help to minor parties, because it removes the chief motivation for major party legislators to pass restrictive ballot access laws, and also for the US Supreme Court to uphold those laws. In Jenness v Fortson, the horrible 1971 US Supreme Court decision that said states can require petitions as tough as 5% of the number of registered voters for minor parties and independent candidates, the decision only had one sentence on what the state interest is in making ballot access extremely difficult. One of those three was “frustration of the election process”, which was the Court’s way of saying the “wrong” winner might get elected because of “spoilers”.

  3. But it still won’t help minor parties win, so what’s it really gain you? And even if they do grow much larger than the pathetic sizes they can typically reach under plurality, they go right back to being spoilers, which then usually results in IRV being repealed. Like in Burlington, VT, where the Republican spoiled the race for the Democrat: IRV was repealed before the next election.

  4. The article repeats the tired old claim about the 2005 election, where turnout was up because Governor Schwarzenegger had made it a statewide election to vote on ballot initiatives that he favored. Statewide turnout in November 2005 was higher than in the general election in 2002 when Gray Davis was elected. The increase was slightly lower in San Francisco than elsewhere in the California, and many of the initiative voters didn’t bother with the IRV races. The previous time the Assessor Recorder races had a conventional runoff, turnout for the runoff was actually higher in the runoff than the first round.

    We can see from the turnout for the 2009 election what happens when San Francisco puts on an election for offices that relatively few voters care about.

    San Francisco should return to odd-year elections of supervisors, and make the city attorney, treasurer, and assessor recorder appointive offices. We know from the 2000 and 2002 elections that grassroots campaigns for the district supervisor rices can be quite effective.

    The increase in non-white supervisors has been primarily due to term limits forcing the retirement of middle-aged white males (eg Tom Ammiano) along with district elections that eliminated the slating of candidates.

    One of the articles in the San Francisco Chronicle that they complain about

    actually understates the problem of voters not using all their preferences, because it didn’t include the 510 ballots where voters attempted to express preferences but failed to successfully express even one.

    The article said, “[i]n San Francisco, 62 percent of voters ranked three candidates in the last District 10 race, almost 15 percent ranked two candidates and 23 percent ranked just one.”

    In fact, only 60.3 managed to successfully rank 3 of the 21 candidates; 14.1% managed 2, 22.8% ranked only 1, and 2.8% ranked zero.

    Moreover, of those 2278 who managed to rank one, 57% or more than half, may have been attempting to express additional preferences, or simply did not understand how IRV worked. Of those who managed to rank only two, 31% may have been trying to rank 3.

    And of course all voters were prevented by the Butterfly By The Bay Ballot from expressing more than 3 choices. Your attorney would probably call this the Full and Effective Preference Ban.

    Is “anyone but Don” an example of coalition building or positive campaigning?

  5. IRV = THE method to elect Stalin or Hitler clones when the Mush Middle is divided.

    34 S–M–H
    33 H–M–S
    16 M–S–H
    16 M–H–S

    M loses. S beats H 50-49 and claims a *mandate* from Hell to go nuts. Civil WAR II ???

    Gee – who has 99 votes in 1st plus 2nd place votes ???

    Gee — will the IRV party hack Stalin/Hitler clones be even more EVIL than the gerrymander/plurality monsters since 1776 ???

    IRV does NOT have EQUAL treatment of ALL 2nd, 3rd, etc. place votes – esp for single person offices.

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  7. #1-3: By Dale’s logic, there’s also no point to ballot access or fair access, as they aren’t likely in themselves to help third parties win. But of course getting on the ballot and being heard matters. So does being able to make your case and have a chance to grow your party without people calling you a spoiler.

    What Dale really should be doing is focused on proportional representation if he wants to boost fair representation. Instead he is lost in the delusional vaporwarwe of approval voting/score voting — quite pointless “activism” that I has and will continue to have only one concrete impact: support for the status quo.

    ##– Jim continues to misrepresent the 2005 election analysis. Jim, go back to this article and most other articles about it. They don’t claim IRV made the 2005 turnout happened. They claim — absolutely correctly — that IRV allowed determination of a winner in that November election rather than a much lower turnout December runoff. See, for example, this excerpt from the article with key places for you to read more carefully flagged in CAPS:

    “In the 34 races held in San Francisco since the first RCV election in 2004, nearly all have seen more voters participating in the final RCV tally than [FLAG] in the old December runoffs. A study of the 2005 Assessor Recorder’s race found that RCV had increased citywide voter participation in the decisive round [FLAG] of that race by 168 percent, or 120,000 voters more than [FLAG] if there had been a December runoff. Moreover, the study found that voter participation tripled in six of the poorest and most diverse neighborhoods due to [NOTE THIS, JIM] having a single RCV election in November.”

    That’s also a key part of the Oakland 2010 story — avoiding the usual June primaries where most races had been won and nearly all candidates had been eliminated despite turnout that is much lower and less representative.

  8. #7 The previous time that there had been a (conventional) runoff for the office of Assessor-Recorder, there were 175,000 votes cast.

    That is NOT 120,000 less than the 190,000 who voted in the 2005 (instant) runoff. And Rob Richie has in the past DISINGENUOUSLY presented the TOTAL turnout in 2005 as if the voters had voted in the municipal races. Most voters DID vote for the statewide initiatives, but around 10-20% didn’t bother with the minor city offices.

    The next odd-year mayoral election in 2009, barely 100,000 persons voted in San Francisco, and only 78,000 voted for the top of the ballot office. BTW, turnout in 2009 was only 15.72% in Bayview/Hunters Point, only 70% of the dismal citywide turnout of 23%.

    [NOTE THIS, ROB] The study was INCOMPETENT because it neglected to even mention that the statewide initiatives were on the ballot and this was what drove turnout because the Democratic Party was trying to bloody Governor Schwarzenegger. To the extent that turnout was tripled in 2005 it was because of the statewide initiatives.

    In December 2000, Sophie Maxwell received 5887 votes in a conventional runoff to be elected supervisor from District 10. In the notorious November 2010 instant runoff election, Malia Cohen received but 4321 votes. That is a 27% decline in votes due to the use of IRV despite the fact that there was a gubernatorial election on the ballot, and the Democratic Lt. Governor candidate was the mayor of San Francisco, and the Attorney General candidate was the District Attorney.

    WHY DID THE VOTE CAST FOR THE WINNING CANDIDATE DECLINE FROM WHEN A CONVENTIONAL RUNOFF WAS USED TO WHEN IRV WAS USED? Remember we’re comparing a December election to a November election that also had a gubernatorial and senatorial election where $100s of millions of dollars would have attracted voters to the polls.

    Back in 1972, San Francisco first considered switching away from plurality elections. At the time they were considering going to a Top 2 primary. But they realized it was STUPID to have a primary for the City Attorney and Treasurer offices since these offices averaged about 1.5 candidates. The Treasurer would have been made appointive, while the City Attorney would have been moved to the even year statewide election. And this was when supervisor elections were still in the odd year.

    When San Francisco first added runoffs, they only did it for the mayoral election. It was after the first district elections for supervisor that runoffs were added for supervisor. Supervisor elections were then switched back to at-large plurality multi-member elections during the stealth recall, and also moved to the even year (which was essentially an accident).

    This left the odd-year election where only the city attorney and treasurer were on the ballot. There were no runoffs for these offices over the next two decades. Runoffs for mayor were quite common and had about the same turnout as the November election. Sometimes more as in 2003, sometimes a bit less.

    When an extremely rare runoff occurred in 2001, the IRV forces pounced. Instead of seeing that the problem was holding an entire election for relatively minor offices, they imposed IRV. The better solution would have been to make the offices appointive or move them to the even year election as was recognized as the better idea 30 years previously.

    Now Sam Francisco is stuck with this wasteful election every 4 years because IRV advocates need to maintain this idea that conventional runoffs are wasteful.

    Incidentally, Dennis Herrera would not have been elected city attorney in 2001 if IRV had been used.

  9. #7 If one looks at the blanket primary elections of 1998 and 2000 in California, for those offices where there was only one candidate from each party on the ballot, and thus the general election was just a repeat of the primary, candidates received almost the same percentage of the vote in both the primary and the general election. Minor party candidates received a bit larger share of the vote in the primary.

    This demonstrates that the electorate in those primaries was in fact representative of the general election electorate. A major exception was the Audie Bock assembly election. But that was because she ran as an independent and was therefore banned from appearing on the primary ballot. In the general election, support for the minor party Republican and Libertarian candidates were much lower, because voters who preferred Bock could not vote for her.

  10. #8 In paragraph 3, that should be “next odd-year non-mayoral election”

  11. 5887 Sophie Maxwell (December 2000)
    4762 Linda Richardson (December 2000)

    4321 Malia Cohen (November 2010)
    3879 Tony Kelly (November 2010)

    The proximate cause of the 23% decline in votes cast in the runoff was the use of IRV in 2010.

    Were those who participated in the 2010 runoff representative of those who voted in the 1st round?

    Or was there a selection bias against voters who did not understand IRV, or how to complete the Butterfly by the Bay Ballot, or perhaps those who were not able to forecast or guess which of the 21 candidates would make the runoff?

  12. How many folks are moving OUT of central cities in CA — or even OUT of the State — to escape the party hack insane gerrymander robots in the CA Legislature ???

    Every election is NEW and has ZERO to do with prior elections.

    –I.E. reviewing past elections — 1776 to 2010 — is a bit of a major waste of time and effort.

    Lots of gerrymander robot party hacks have been elected since 1776 – causing the ongoing destruction of the economy — govt deficits and worse and worse debts, etc.

    P.R. and App.V.

  13. #14, the plaintiffs decided not to ask the 9th circuit for a ruling that the US District Court erred when it didn’t grant injunctive relief. Instead the next action will be in the US District Court over declaratory relief.

  14. #15 I thought that the plaintiff’s brief in Federal District Court (California Central) was April 27.

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