For Immediate Release:
February 8, 2010??

Election Experts Dismiss San Francisco
Ranked Choice Voting Lawsuit as Baseless

Studies Demonstrate RCV Has Improved Elections in San Francisco

SAN 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.

Ranked 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."

"With 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.

"San 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 Bobier.

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).

"With 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."

For media requests, please contact
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.

This email was sent to by
New America Foundation | California Program | 921 11th Street | Suite 901 | Sacramento | CA | 95814