By Steven Hill
Happy holidays! Just think, if we were still using December runoff elections – which Supervisor Sean Elsbernd wants San Francisco to go back to – YESTERDAY would have been election day. For the past month, we would have been heavy in the middle of yet another election -- in fact, three elections, one for mayor, district attorney and sheriff (since in the November election none of the front runners won an initial majority). Instead of receving holiday cards from family and friends, our mailboxes, voice mails, radio and TV would have been flooded with more negative campaign ads, robocalls and mailers dumped on our doorsteps, and an avalanche of independent expenditures by shadowy special interests (a study by the San Francisco Ethics Commission found that independent expenditures increased by FOUR TIMES in December runoffs -- and that was before the recent "Citizens United" Supreme Court decision that turned on the spigot for unlimited special interest and corporate campaign spending)
So to avoid a December election, we used an "instant runoff" in which voters ranked not only their first choice but also their runoff choices as their second and third rankings. By doing that we were able to determine the majority winners in a single election. But the proponents of December runoffs, including the Chamber of Commerce, San Francisco Chronicle and real estate interests, want to force us to vote again, even though all of the frontrunners this year won by comfortable margins and the results in a second election would have been a foregone conclusion. Yet it would have cost San Francisco taxpayers at least $4 million to hold that second election – money that can be used for other city needs in a difficult economy.
Let’s face it, elections in December – in the middle of the holiday season -- is just a terrible idea, ranking right up there with Arnold Schwarzenegger’s secret love-child, having a drink with Herman Cain and anything to do with Charlie Sheen. So why would the nostalgic proponents of December elections want to take us backward, to the “good ol’ days” that never existed? Could they really be so enamored with December runoffs? Or might they have…another (((hidden))) agenda?
State Assemblyman Tom Ammiano has the answer to that last question for you, see his recent oped below, titled “Stop downtown's attack on RCV.” Here’s a clue from the pull quote: "Voters in the (low turnout) runoffs were overwhelmingly whiter, older and more conservative than the city as a whole."
And also -- GOOD NEWS! Supervisors David Campos and John Avalos just introduced legislation to protect and improve ranked choice voting, and next month also will introduce legislation to protect public financing of campaigns.
Here’s Tom Ammiano’s oped. Happy holidays to you all.