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We are also setting up a Speakers Bureau of people who are willing to go to
community groups and give a short 10 minute presentation about IRV in
San Francisco. If you aren't sure you are prepared well enough to do
that, don't worry -- the talk will be scripted, with each part cued by
visual flash cards. You just have to follow along with the script! And
we will have a speakers training, and give you materials. So it will be
easy for anyone who already feels comfortable in front of an audience.
By Steven Hill, Center for Voting and Democracy

In November 2004, San Francisco voters will elect seven seats on the
Board of Supervisors using ranked choice voting (RCV, also known as
instant runoff voting). Proposition A, passed by San Francisco voters
in March 2002, enacted ranked choice voting for all local offices,
including mayor, district attorney, city attorney, and others.

With a change to the electoral process like this, the public,
prospective candidates and political activists all want to know "how
does RCV work?" There has been much speculation about who gets hurt and
who gets helped by this change.

First, let's review some of the basics about RCV.

HOW RCV WORKS: RCV allows voters to rank their candidates, 1, 2, 3, and
uses the rankings to run a series of runoffs to determine the candidate
who is supported by a majority of voters. A majority is defined as 50%
of the vote, plus 1 more vote; so in an election with 100 voters, a
majority would be 51 voters. Every voter has one vote, which they
always give to their highest ranked candidate who is still in the race.

When a voter walks into a polling site or opens her absentee ballot,
she'll look at a ballot that looks very much like the current Optech
Eagle ballot, except it will say, "Ranked Choice Voting: Vote for a
different candidate for each choice." Then the voter will see three
columns labeled "First Choice," "Second Choice," and "Third Choice." In
each column, you will fill in the arrow next to the candidate you have
selected for each choice. To see an approximate version of what the
ballot will look like, visit

HOW THE BALLOTS ARE COUNTED: Following is a brief explanation, but at
the end of the explanation are links to a Flash animation and a flow
chart SHOWING how the ballots are counted. Usually seeing it is better
than reading about it, so we encourage you to check out those links.

To start, only the first-place rankings are counted. If a candidate has
a majority of these first-place rankings, she or he is elected (just
like San Francisco always has done, when one candidate has a majority of
votes in the November election). But if no candidate has a majority of
first-place rankings, then the "instant runoff" begins.

The candidate with the LEAST number of first-place rankings is
eliminated from the runoff. Voters whose candidate has just been
eliminated, instead of wasting their vote on a candidate who could not
win, now can give their vote to their runoff choice -- their second
choice, as indicated by their ranked ballot. These ballots are added to
the totals of continuing candidates. Now if one candidate has a
majority of votes (which in this case would be their original
first-place rankings added to the runoff rankings from those voters of
the eliminated candidate) that candidate is elected. If still no
candidate has a majority at this point, another last-place candidate is
eliminated, and voters supporting that candidate give their ballot to
their next-ranked candidate. The vote counting proceeds in rounds, in
essence a SERIES of runoffs, until a candidate has a majority of the

Here are the rules to remember: 1) rank your candidates, 1, 2, 3; 2) it
is best to use ALL your rankings, to make sure you participate in each
runoff round; 3) your lower choice cannot defeat your higher choice, so
there is no advantage to "bullet voting" (ranking only one candidate or
ranking the same candidate three times).

You can view a flash animation of how the RCV ballot counting will occur
by visiting this link: You can also view a
flow chart showing this at

THE VOTING EQUIPMENT: San Francisco will use the same voting equipment
that it has used since 2000, an "optical scan" system (i.e. NOT
touchscreens) with a fully voter-verified paper trail (your paper
ballot). The voting equipment comes with "error notification" -- if you
make a mistake on your ballot -- i.e. skip a ranking, or vote for the
same candidate twice -- the equipment immediately notifies you and you
can correct it.

California IRV Coalition -
To unsubscribe, send an email to:
InstantRunoffCA-unsubscribe [at]

California's governor, lieutenant governor, secretary of state, treasurer,
controller, and insurance commissioner gained office without the support of
a majority of voters.

IRV is an easy, efficient way to guarantee a majority winner, reduce
negative campaigning, and eliminate the "spoiler" effect. Let's make it

See also
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