IRV in San Francisco Provides Lessons for New York City, Other Major Cities

New York and San FranciscoSan Francisco State University professor Richard DeLeon has released a new analysis of exit polls conducted during last November's initial instant runoff voting election for San Francisco municipal races. One conclusion: "San Francisco voters of virtually every type and stripe – liberals and conservatives, Democrats and Republicans, whites and non-whites, men and women, young and old, rich and poor, and so on – prefer [IRV]  to the old December runoff system." Released on the San Francisco political site, The Usual Suspects, DeLeon's findings come as San Francisco prepares for its first citywide IRV elections this November -- and as other cities like New York City, Cincinnati and Los Angeles struggle with more antiquated, costly systems.

New York City, for example, employs a two-round runoff system to try and nominate citywide candidates with greater voter support than in a simple plurality primary. Indeed, several winners in non-citywide offices won with less than 30% of the vote. This year, however, depending on the outcome of the recent fractured mayoral primary, the city will potentially face a compulsory runoff in mayoral primary at an estimated cost of more than $10 million. Even worse, the first place candidate is poised to be only a few votes shy of avoiding the runoff, and the second place candidate has already conceded -- making the $10 million runoff an expensive formality. New York could learn from the San Francisco model, and implement IRV to produce party nominees with the support of more voters in one round instead of two, thereby saving millions of dollars, avoiding drops in turnout, and promoting more civil campaigning.

[ Download Rich DeLeon's Study at The Usual Suspects - .pdf 404 KB ]
[ More Information About IRV in San Francisco ]
[ New York City Plurality Elections 2005 ]
[ Mother Jones Calls for IRV ]
[ Gotham Gazette Calls for IRV ]