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.  


Resources for Organizations

Resources for Candidates

FairVote California has materials available on how RCV works in various languages:




Additional links

San Francisco Department of Elections - Ranked Choice Voting

SF Better Elections


FairVote Election Analysis

SF Open Source Voting System 


Mapping the 2018 San Francisco Mayor's Race

San Francisco Report: RCV is Working as Intended with Positive Voter Experience and Increase in Voter Turnout and Use of Rankings


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


Exhausted Ballots: Did They Affect the Outcome in San Francisco’s Mayoral Election?

By Steven Hill and Pedro Hernandez

Executive Summary

In the 2018 mayoral election in San Francisco, 21,000 ballots (8.6% of all ballots cast) became “exhausted” -- is it possible that the number of exhausted ballots impacted the winner in San Francisco's mayoral election? Or, alternatively, if SF voters had more than three rankings (which might have reduced the number of exhausted ballots), might that have affected the outcome? The answer to both questions is: no. By using publicly available ballot-image data to analyze this race, it can be determined that a substantial number of the exhausted ballots came from voters who supported the less progressive-identified candidates in the race. Those voters tended to favor London Breed over Mark Leno by a ratio of 1.36 to 1. Some voters for Jane Kim also saw their ballots exhaust, and those voters tended to strongly favor Mark Leno. Overall, this analysis estimates that, with more rankings for voters leading to fewer exhausted ballots, Leno might have closed the victory margin by an estimated total of 183 votes. This would not have been enough to overcome the 2,600 vote gap between himself and London Breed.

In addition, if Jane Kim had won 700 more first choice rankings and surpassed Mark Leno in the first round, would that have changed the outcome of the election? Definitely not. In fact, London Breed would have won by an even greater margin, because Kim would have picked up fewer second and third rankings from Leno supporters than Leno picked up from Kim supporters.

Huge turnout

  • Voter turnout will end up around 53%, giving San Francisco its highest turnout for mayor in 15 years, much higher than statewide turnout (36%) in California.

Greater usage of ranked choice voting (RCV)

  • The mayor’s race drove turnout. San Francisco voters cast more RCV ballots for mayor than non-RCV ballots for governor and U.S. senator.
  • 86% of voters used at least two of their rankings in the mayor’s race, and nearly 70% used all three of their rankings.

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