For Immediate Release:
February 8, 2010 For media requests, please contact
Election Experts Dismiss San Francisco
Ranked Choice Voting Lawsuit as Baseless
Studies Demonstrate RCV Has Improved Elections in San Francisco
FRANCISCO - Election experts with the New America Foundation's
Political Reform Program said today that a lawsuit recently filed
against San Francisco's Ranked Choice Voting system is without merit.
After reviewing the documents filed in Dudum v Arntz, Gautam Dutta, an attorney with the Political Reform Program,
said: "This lawsuit is baseless and fails to state a legitimate claim.
We expect that it will be summarily dismissed by the Court." Dutta
noted that a similar lawsuit was recently rejected by the Minnesota Supreme Court, which unanimously upheld the constitutionality of Ranked Choice Voting.
Choice Voting (RCV) was approved by San Francisco voters in 2002 and
has been used to elect the Mayor and Board of Supervisors since 2004.
"Ranked Choice Voting has given San Francisco voters more choices,
increased voter turnout and given more voters a say in who their
elected officials have been," said Mr. Dutta.
The lawsuit's primary claim is that limiting voters to three rankings is unconstitutional. "That's ridiculous," said Blair Bobier, Deputy Director of the Political Reform Program.
"Contrary to the lawsuit's claim, RCV greatly expands voter choice by
providing voters with the opportunity to select three candidates and
rank them in order of preference. This triples the number of choices
which voters currently have when selecting a president, governor or
member of congress, when voters have only one choice."
Ranked Choice Voting, every voter is treated the same, and every voter
has the option of ranking three candidates," said Bobier, also an
attorney. "There are no legal or constitutional issues here."
New America's Political Reform Program Director Steven Hill criticized
the declaration filed in support of the lawsuit by Professor Jonathan
Katz. "Dr. Katz gets a number of facts wrong, grossly distorts the
potential impact of voters being limited to three rankings, and fails
to point out that voters are three times more likely to cast a decisive
vote in San Francisco than in the 'single-vote' plurality voting system
used for most elections elsewhere in the country."
In responding to the lawsuit's claim that "exhausted ballots" disenfranchise some voters, Bobier referred to a study conducted by the New America Foundation and Fairvote
which demonstrated conclusively that more voters participate in
decisive elections with San Francisco's Ranked Choice Voting system
than with the previous two-round system of runoffs. This is due to the
fact that voter turnout is much higher in November's RCV election than
in the December runoff election previously used by the city.
Francisco's old method of electing its local officials disenfranchised
a huge percentage of voters because so few voters usually participated
in the final round of elections in December. Ranked Choice Voting has
increased both voter turnout and the diversity of the electorate," said
Another study by Fairvote
found that with Ranked Choice Voting, voter turnout skyrocketed by over
300% in San Francisco's six most socioeconomically diverse
neighborhoods: Western Addition (309.4%), Bayview / Hunter's Point
(351.6%), the Mission (351.6%), Ingleside (324.6%), Excelsior (310.4%)
and Visitation Valley (407.3%). (See page 4 of the study).
Ranked Choice Voting, San Francisco has elected the most diverse Board
of Supervisors in the city's history," Dutta said. "RCV is a vast
improvement because it is has enfranchised thousands of voters. There
is no question that Ranked Choice Voting is on solid legal ground," he
added. "This is a frivolous lawsuit."
Steven Hill, Director, Political Reform Program - (415) 810-2701
Blair Bobier, Deputy Director, Political Reform Program - (415) 601-7052
Elizabeth Wu, Manager, California Media Relations - (510) 295-9859
About the New America Foundation
The New America Foundation is a nonprofit, nonpartisan public policy
institute that invests in new thinkers and new ideas to address the
next generation of challenges facing the United States. www.newamerica.net