Posted by Pedro Hernandez on May 18, 2018 at 10:08 AM
In "Voter Experience with Ranked Choice Voting in San Francisco: Voter Turnout and Use of Rankings, 2004-2016," a report by Pedro Hernandez, Deputy Director of FairVote California, and co-authored by Jennifer Pae, Director of FairVote California; Madeline Brown, Research Fellow at FairVote; and Theodore Landsman, Research Manager at FairVote, we quantify how well voters have interacted with this form of an RCV ballot over the 68 RCV elections that took place in San Francisco from 2004-2016.
The report breaks contests down into categories based on how competitive they were and analyzes the rates at which voters ranked candidates; the rates at which they skipped the contest entirely; and two types of voter errors (skipped rankings and overvotes). It measures how RCV performs in San Francisco on these and other metrics compared to non-RCV contests in the city. We find that San Francisco voters have generally made effective use of this form of an RCV ballot despite its limitations, especially compared to the prior system based on two-round runoffs.
We also identify evidence of how voters’ use of the RCV ballot has improved over time. For example:
- In contests with multiple candidates and contests that went to multiple rounds of counting to determine a winner (meaning no candidate earned more than half of first choice rankings), voters have become increasingly likely to rank second and third choices.
- In contests with at least three candidates and multiple rounds of counting, 74.5% of ballots ranked at least two candidates, and 60.8% of ballots ranked three.
- Skipped rankings are rare and have become rarer over time—in competitive races with three or more can-didates, all the elections in which 1% or more of ballots had skipped rankings occurred in the first three years of RCV (2004-2006).
- Overvotes are rare, and the rate of overvotes correlates far more with the number of candidates in a contest than the use of RCV in comparison to non-RCV elections. There has not been a RCV election with an overvote rate greater than 1% since 2010.