San Francisco People, Stand up for Ranked Choice Voting TOMORROW (Thursday, January 26, 2012)!
Please pass this on to people in San Francisco!
[From Steven Hill]
This email is going to RCV activists and supporters, and I can’t emphasize enough the important of having a big turnout for tomorrow’s Rules Cmte hearing in San Francisco, City Hall, Room 263. Even if you don’t live in SF, we need to pack the commitee chamber with bodies (they do not need to know where you live). And then you also need to be prepared to go to the microphone and give up to two minutes of testimony (here is a link for Talking Points, also see below — say whatever you want, but say something). The hearing will be televised, both all around City Hall and to people who watch it from home or office, and at two minutes per testimony I think we should set a goal of having enough people there that they have to listen to 40 minutes of RCV testimony. So that means 20 people. Can you commit to being one of those twenty?
I would like to get a head count so we know how many are coming, so please RSVP to me as soon as you receive this email.
Also, the time of the hearing has changed, from 1:30 to 2 pm. And looking at the other agenda items before the two charter amendments on RCV, if you were to arrive by 2:45 pm, that should be sufficient. But it’s hard to predict, the Supervisors can table items and sometimes move thru the agenda quickly. So if you can arrive by 2:30 pm, that would be ideal.
I have been involved in a lot of mtgs lately at City Hall, and we are making progress on our agenda of stopping the repeal charter amendment. But some key swing votes are waiting for this Rules Cmte hearing, and so we need to bring overwhelming force to City Hall tomorrow. I am hoping you will help us do that. Please let me know if you will be there by RSVPing.
An important hearing regarding the future of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in San Francisco is occurring this Thursday, January 26, at 2:00 PM in the Rules Committee of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. The hearing will take place at City Hall, Room 263. It’s “all hands on deck” time, we need people to come and testify. Each person at the hearing is allowed two minutes to say what’s on your mind. Please come and defend local democracy!
RCV and public financing in San Francisco are under attack by the political and wealthy elite — the local one percenters — and it is important to turn out at this hearing to defend political reform!
Background: Two charter amendments have been proposed, one by the most conservative supervisors, Sean Elsbernd and Mark Farrell, to repeal RCV and replace it with a December runoff (or possibly a September primary followed by a November runoff). A second charter amendment has been proposed by Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos to preserve and and improve RCV by expanding voter education and pushing faster for more than 3 rankings (this charter amend also would move city attorney and treasurer races to the other odd year, to be elected in the same year as mayor, district attorney and sheriff, which would get rid of one election year and save money – plus give voters a year off with no elections!). The Board of Supervisors is weighing whether to put both of these charter amendments on the ballot in June, which is always a low-turnout election in which the electorate is whiter, wealthier and more conservative than the rest of the city.
In addition, Supervisors Jane Kim, Campos and Avalos have introduced an ordinance to tweak the public financing of campaigns program to deal with the “zombie candidate” problem, improve our public financing, and move the filing deadline for candidates from mid-August to mid-June. This is part of an overall political reform package to improve San Francisco elections, which includes preserving and improving RCV.
The Elsbernd-Farrell charter amendment is the culmination of a long-standing effort by the San Francisco Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Chronicle, downtown businesses and their local political consultants to repeal Ranked Choice Voting. They want to return to low turnout runoff elections where they can use their huge advantage in independent expenditures to pound any opponents into submission. This is a direct attack on democracy in San Francisco by local “one percenters.”
It’s telling that they are trying to get their repeal measure on the ballot in June – when voter turnout historically in San Francisco is only a bit more than half of what it is in November (see this link showing changes in voter turnout from June to November, and how it’s even lower among minority neighborhoods). They know that if this measure is decided in November, when most voters are at the polls to vote for president, they will lose. So they want to decide it in low-turnout June and sneak it through when no one’s looking. If they can take down RCV, then public financing is next and then district elections itself. After they finish with San Francisco, Oakland is next. Here is a link to an oped by Assemblyman Tom Ammiano laying out what is at stake.
So please turn out this Thursday, January 26, 1:30 PM in Room 263 City Hall for this crucially important hearing. If you can’t make the hearing, please contact your own Supervisor as well as Board President David Chiu (David.Chiu@sfgov.org) and give them your thoughts. We want to tell elected officials that we believe that both RCV and public financing provide a good foundation for our local democracy, and we can improve it and make it even better.
Here is a link to Talking Points that you can use for your testimony at the hearing or your e-mails and phone calls. I have also pasted the Talking Points into the e-mail below.
Thank you so much for all of your support for San Francisco’s local democracy. Together over the past decade, we have been making San Francisco a model for the rest of the nation. Let’s not lose it now to the local “one percent” wealthy and politically elite who want to manipulate the rules for their own advantage.
(Please pass this on to your own email lists and Facebook pages)..
RCV Talking Points
* San Francisco has been a pioneer in many ways, including elections. The City’s use of ranked choice voting and public financing of campaigns has gained national attention and praise for innovations in representative democracy.
* Why should this be decided on a June ballot, when voter turnout is only a bit more than half of what is in November? Shouldn’t we decide an important change like this in November, when voter turnout is highest in more San Franciscans will have a say? Are the opponents trying to sneak this through when no one is looking by putting it on the June ballot?
* Since using public financing beginning in 2002 for the Board of Supervisors races, and ranked choice voting since 2004 for the supervisorial races, San Franciscans have seen a doubling of racial/ethnic minority representatives elected to the 11-member Board of Supervisors, from four to eight, including four Asian Americans. Recently San Francisco elected its first Chinese American mayor in an RCV election, and the runner-up was a Latino candidate using public financing in the mayor’s race.
* A wide cross-section of San Francisco is well represented on the Board of Supervisors, including the gay/lesbian community, moderates, liberals, progressives and conservatives. With ranked choice voting and public financing, San Franciscans have elected one of the most representative city governments in the United States.
* When San Francisco used December runoffs until 2004, voter turnout usually plummeted in the second election. In ten of the city’s 14 December runoffs between 2000 and 2003, voter turnout declined by more than a third, with most runoff winners having fewer votes than the first-place candidate had in November.
* Because voter turnout in December runoffs was so low, most officeholders are now being elected with far more votes — 29% more, on average — than they ever won in low turnout December runoffs. In fact, when Supervisor Sean Elsbernd won his District 7 race with RCV in 2004, he had nearly 50% more votes than his predecessor who was elected in a December runoff. That means that more San Franciscans are having a say in who their local representatives are, and that’s good for democracy.
* In 2001, for example, Dennis Herrera won his citywide city attorney runoff with fewer than 39,000 votes — less than 9% of registered voters and 10,000 fewer votes than the November leader Jim Lazarus had. Voter turnout in December plummeted to 16% of registered voters (12% of eligible voters), one of the lowest in San Francisco history, clearly showing that most voters did not take a “second look” at the candidates (one of the supposed benefits of a separate runoff election).
* By contrast, with RCV in 2005, Phil Ting won his citywide RCV election for assessor-recorder with two and a half times more final runoff votes than City Attorney Dennis Herrera had because the assessor-recorder election was decided in a higher turnout November election while the city attorney race was decided in a low turnout December runoff election.
* That’s been true in virtually every RCV race — candidates are winning with far more votes than they would have received in a low turnout December runoff or June or September primary.
*San Francisco taxpayers have saved approximately $7 million tax dollars by getting rid of an unnecessary second election and finishing electoral contests in a single November election using ranked choice voting.
* December runoffs or a September primary not only cost taxpayers more money, but required candidates to raise money quickly. In the final San Francisco runoffs, independent expenditures quadrupled over the first round, according to a study by the San Francisco Ethics Commission. Such one-on-one races are notorious for highly negative campaigns, all the more so in the modern era of big money “independent expenditures’. With RCV, old-fashioned door-to-door politics and coalition-building matters more than traditional big money politics.
* Voters are handling RCV well. 99.6% of voters cast valid ballots in the mayor’s race, and 73% of voters used all three of their rankings in the mayor’s race. Critics have claimed that minority communities are confused, yet if that is true then how have those communities DOUBLED their representation on the Board of Supervisors?
* The only three exit polls ever conducted of RCV elections (two by San Francisco State University and one by the Asian Law Caucus) have shown an extremely high rate of understanding, with 87% of voters reporting that they understand ranked choice voting, a result that cut across all ethnic and racial lines.
* With RCV, voters aren’t stuck anymore with a single shot vote for the lesser of two evils, but are liberated to rank their three favorite candidates. With RCV, voter choice is king.
* However the 2011 election revealed ways that we could make San Francisco elections even better. Complaints were heard that there were too many mayoral candidates, which made it difficult for voters to discern differences between the many candidates; that the city’s successful public financing system was plagued by so-called “zombie candidates” who could not withdraw from the race without repaying the public money they had spent, which added to the overabundance of candidates; that some voters were confused by the ranked choice system; and that winners are being elected with less than a majority. In addition, due to a recent Supreme Court decision that ruled that “triggers” for receiving more money dependent on the spending of privately financed candidates is no longer legal, it is necessary to modify the City’s public financing system in order to fix that problem.
* If the real problem is too many candidates, there are ways to fix that other than repealing ranked choice voting or public financing. We could move the date for receiving public money to the same as the qualifying deadline for candidates so that no candidate receives public money before everyone sees who is in the race; and other improvements to the public finance system.
* For RCV, voter education efforts could be improved. Outreach could include more information on how the ballots are counted and not just the mechanics of how to rank candidates. The ballot design also could be clearer, and San Francisco’s voting machines should be modified to allow for more than three rankings (San Francisco’s current vendor, Dominion Voting Systems, has developed a digital scanner that allows up to 11 RCV rankings). RCV elections this year in St. Paul (MN) allowed six rankings (using equipment similar to San Francisco’s), while Portland, Maine allowed 15 rankings.. Debate organizers could begin limiting the number of participating candidates to no more than the 5-6 front runners as Election Day draws closer.
* San Francisco rightly has been recognized as a national leader with RCV, with more cities using it every year. Next year, we’ll certainly wish we had RCV for presidential elections if more than two candidates run, to prevent another Gore-Nader-type split. The freedom to rank your three favorite candidates is a blessing that we should treasure and make work. Mend it, don’t end it.