Released November 9, 2011

November 9, 2011                 

Steven Hill     (415) 665-5044     shill [at ]
Rob Richie     (301) 270-4616     rr [at]

Preliminary Results and Statistics in San Francisco’s Ranked Choice Voting Elections


Strong support for Ed Lee and other winners

•    In the mayor’s race, Ed Lee leads in first choices by 20,504 votes, or 13.2%

•    Ed Lee wins in the final round against John Avalos by 61.2% to 38.8%.

•    Ed Lee had a wider breadth of support. He gained more votes than John Avalos from backers of 6 of the 7 defeated candidates who won at least 3% of first choice rankings

•    Ed Lee defeats every other candidate when matched against them 1-on-1

•    In the sheriff’s race, Ross Mirkarimi defeats every other candidate 1-on-1

•    In the district attorney’s race, George Gascon defeats every other candidate 1-on-1

Voter rankings

•    73% of voters in mayor’s race had 3 valid rankings. 84% had at least 2 valid ranking
•    74% of voters in district attorney’s race had at least 2 valid rankings and 53% ranked three.

•    62% of voters in sheriff’s race had at least 2 valid rankings. Among the voters backing one of the two Asian American candidates, 71% ranked two candidates and 52% ranked three.

Effective voting

•    99.62% of voters in mayor’s race cast a valid ballot in first round

•    99.83% of voters in sheriff’s race cast a valid ballot in first round

•    99.75% of voters in district attorney’s race cast a valid in first round

Notes and Comment:

San Francisco used ranked choice voting (RCV, also known as instant runoff voting) in the November 8, 2011 elections for mayor, sheriff and district attorney. This is the eighth November election in which San Francisco offices have been elected by ranked choice voting. Ten of the eleven members of the Board of Supervisors won office in a multi-round RCV election.

The non-profit educational organization FairVote analyzed the results and electronic ballot images made publicly available on November 9th by the San Francisco Department of Elections (the ballot   images are anonymous digital records of every voter's ballot counted to that date).

Our analysis shows that, of those voters indicating a preference in these three citywide races, 99.73% cast a valid ballot – meaning more than 997 out of every 1,000 voters. Furthermore, the great majority of voters ranked more than one candidate.

Rob Richie, executive director of FairVote, said, "Nearly three-quarters of voters used all three of their rankings in the mayor's race, a very high rate. That reflects a high level of engagement, understanding and effective use of ranked ballots. We support improved voter education, better ballot design and opportunity to indicate more rankings, but these numbers show that the great majority of San Francisco voters 'get' RCV and use it well.”
Steven Hill, former political director of the New America In the mayor's race, commented that "Running as an incumbent with a largely favorable approval rating, Ed Lee had a large lead in early polls, maintained that lead and won comfortably. He not only won a substantial greater number of first choice rankings; he also was far more effective at being the second and third choice of backers of defeated candidates."

Five other American cities had RCV elections this week, including Portland (ME) and St. Paul (MN).

FairVote will be providing additional analysis tomorrow. Read Steven Hill's commentary today on ranked choice at Beyond Chron.