Monday, September 13, 2010

Northern California Judge affirms constitutionality of San Francisco elections

Image Courtesy of Geek and Poke

Judge Richard Seeborg declared that San Francisco's restricted instant runoff system (IRV), whereby voters rank their top three candidates in an election was a burden on voting rights, but it was not severe enough to violate the constitution.

According to court documents, Ron Dudum and five other registered voters sued the City and County of San Francisco over Proposition A which voters approved in 2002.  Under IRV, voters rank their three favorite candidates from a field.  If a candidate wins a majority of first place votes then he wins.  If not, the candidate with the lowest number of first place votes is eliminated and the second place votes are distributed and the process repeats.

The plaintiffs argued that if there are more than three candidates then, a person voting for the three least popular will have his ballot "exhausted" and not counted to determine the actual winner.  San Francisco argued that the burden is minimal and ranking candidates actually enables greater participation in elections.

The Court agreed with the county, finding "While a limitation to no more than three preferences in a large field of candidates does exert some burden on voting rights, it is not severe." Therefore there is no constitutional violation.

The case is Dudum v. City and County of San Francisco No. C. 10-0504 and the opinion is below the jump.

Here is the opinion:
Dudum v. San Francisco

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