San Francisco


Voters passed Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) as an amendment to the City Charter in March of 2002. In 2004, San Francisco held its first RCV election. San Francisco voters use RCV to elect the Mayor, Sheriff, District Attorney, City Attorney, Treasurer, Assessor-Recorder, Public Defender, and Members of the Board of Supervisors.


Improving Voter Understanding and Election Systems

We dedicate our efforts to this work because we know that with RCV, voters are better represented. With RCV, San Francisco voters only have to visit the polls once when turnout is highest in a November general election. Prior to RCV, many voters did not participate in the second round of voting, which was held in December as a runoff election – the median turnout decline for local runoffs between 2000 and 2003 was 39.5%, meaning just three in five voters turned out in the decisive runoff election. With RCV, 86.8% of voters ballots count in the final, decisive election.

RCV eliminated the need for a costly December runoff election. Based on the Department of Elections, these costs included approximately $340,000 for every district election for a member of the Board of Supervisors and approximately $3.7 million if adding a citywide runoff election for Mayor.

We are advocating for ongoing voter education and support the San Francisco Open Source Voting System Project.



San Francisco Department of Elections - Ranked Choice Voting

SF Better Elections


FairVote Election Analysis

SF Open Source Voting System



Stay tuned for voter education and campaign efforts for the upcoming election.


FairVote: Ranked Choice Voting in the 2016 Bay Area Elections

Bay Area Election Analysis

Fairvote: Evaluating the 2016 Ranked Choice Voting Elections in the Bay Area

FairVote: Every RCV Election in the Bay Area So Far Has Produced Condorcet Winners

FairVote: RCV Elections and Runoffs: Exhausted Votes vs Exhausted Voters in the Bay Area


Ranked Choice Voting and Racial Group Turnout: Methodological Flaws Skew Recent Study on RCV

FairVote: Seven Ways Ranked Choice Voting is Empowering Voters in 2015


FairVote: Key Facts about the Use of Ranked Choice Voting in 2014 in California’s Bay Area

2014 Eagleton Poll California RCV Survey Results

Huffington Post: Key Facts About 2014 Ranked Choice Voting Elections in Bay Area

RCV and Campaign Civility Report


In defense of ranked choice voting


FairVote: First Take on RCV Elections in Four Bay Area Cities

PublicCEO: Analysis Of 2012 Ranked Choice Voting Elections In The Bay Area: Three Points


Better Elections in San Francisco: San Francisco Numbers Tell a Powerful Story about RCV

FairVote: RCV Election Results: Portland and San Francisco

Like 1-2-3: Ranked-choice voting here to stay


Understanding the RCV Election Results in District 10


Beyond Chron: Ranked Choice Voting in SF: $3 Million Saved, Turnout Nearly Tripled


Ranked Choice Voting and Voter Turnout in San Francisco’s 2005 Election
Public Research Institute: An Assessment of Ranked-Choice Voting in the San Francisco 2005 Election


Public Research Institute: An Assessment of Ranked-Choice Voting in the  San Francisco 2004 Election


From the Blog

June_5_2018_Election.jpg (image source:

With the sudden passing of Mayor Edwin Lee on Dec. 12, voters in San Francisco will be choosing a new mayor in a special election on June 5, 2018. The winner will be choice in a single ranked choice voting, “instant runoff” election unlike most California vacancies that take far longer to fill over two rounds of voting.

Candidates for the special election will be required to submit their nomination papers by 5 pm on Jan. 9, 2018. The period for candidates to gather voter signatures to reduce the cost of filing nomination papers for the office of mayor is now open; this period ends Tuesday, Dec. 26 at 5pm.

While the field for candidates is not yet clear, we wanted to to provide our supporters with an overview of what to expect.


What is the project? The project is for the City and County of San Francisco to develop and certify an open source paper-ballot voting system, as described in detail by a resolution passed unanimously by the San Francisco Elections Commission in November 2015.[1]

What is an open source voting system? An open source voting system is a voting system consisting of open source software running on commercial off-the-shelf (COTS, aka “commodity”) hardware. Open source software is software that is free for anyone to inspect, use, and improve.[2] The software is public and non-proprietary. The Firefox web browser and the Linux and Android operating systems are three widely used examples of open source software. Open source software is used heavily by successful technology companies large and small.

There are numerous ways to assess an electoral system. Mathematicians and political scientists have developed hundreds of different criteria, with the most common including the majority criterion, the later-no-harm criterion and the Condorcet winner criterion.

The Condorcet winner criterion is one of the most common criteria. It states that the candidate who would win a one-on-one matchup against any other candidate should win the election. The frequency with which an electoral system elects Condorcet winners is a good measure of whether the election system reflects the political center of a given electorate, since a Condorcet winner, by definition, has to be able to win over a majority of the electorate regardless of alternative choices.

A system that more often elects Condorcet winners will less often elect a candidate disliked by the majority of voters--an outcome that US voters in plurality elections and low turnout runoffs know all too well. It is hard to estimate how many US elections using plurality and runoff systems elect candidates disliked by a majority of voters, but we all have anecdotes of reviled politicians who somehow manage to keep being re-elected.

Last November, voters in San Francisco, Berkeley, Oakland and San Leandro had the opportunity to vote in ranked choice voting elections (RCV), which gives voters a stronger voice and greater choice in our elections.

In San Francisco, voter turnout was 80.7% of registered voters casting a ballot -- down 0.5% from 2008, but representing more city voters than ever before in history at 414,516 votes.

San Francisco Supervisor Eric Mar was termed out in 2016, which left an open seat on the Board of Supervisors. Nine (9) candidates entered the race. Current San Francisco Unified School District Commissioner Sandra Lee Fewer emerged as the winner in this election. The analysis below provides an overview of how she won in an RCV election.

Our friends at the Center for Civic Design are looking for people to help test some new ballot designs and voter education materials, to help make voting a better experience.

If you live and vote in San Francisco or Alameda County, they'd love to have you participate in their research study.

Join the San Francisco Chapter