Instant Run-Off Voting – San Francisco

On March 5, 2002, voters in San Francisco passed Proposition A by 55 percent to 45 percent margin and became the first major city in the country to adopt Instant Runoff Voting. Prop A amends the charter of the City and County of San Francisco to provide for the election of the Mayor, Sheriff, District Attorney, City Attorney, Treasurer, Assessor-Recorder, Public Defender, and members of the Board of Supervisors using a ranked-choice, or "instant run-off," ballot.

Supportersof the proposal argued that the adoption of instant run-off voting in San Francisco would saves up to $2 million per year, frees voters from having to deal with elections in December and will raise voter turnout.

Underthe old "delayed" runoff, voters voted for their favorite candidate in November. If a candidate won a majority of votes, they won the election. But if no candidate received a majority, the top two candidates advanced to the December runoff. An "instant" runoff works the same way, except that a voter indicates their runoff choices at the same time they vote for their favorite. This is done by ranking candidates in order of choice: first choice, second choice, third choice.

With instant runoff voting, if a candidate wins a majority of first choices they win the election. But if no candidate receives a majority of first choices, the "instant" runoff begins. Just like with the December runoff, if your favorite candidate is eliminated your vote counts for your runoff choice that is still in the race, as indicated by your rankings.


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