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March 21, 2003


Alice & Milk Agree on IRV

Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club
Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club

March 19, 2003

Michael Mendelson
Elections Commission
City and County of San Francisco
1 Dr. Carlton B. Goodlett Place, Room 48
San Francisco, CA 94102

Dear Mr. Mendelson,

The Alice B. Toklas LGBT Democratic Club, the Harvey Milk LGBT Democratic Club, elected officials and community leaders of the LGBT community request that the San Francisco Elections Commission use all available resources to ensure the professional and organized implementation of voter-approved Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) for the November 4, 2003, election. Our community strongly supported this ballot measure.

Measure A, approved last year with 55 percent of the vote, called for an end to runoff elections and a quick implementation of an instant runoff system. IRV is not an option, though how it is implemented may be. Your leadership on this issue is needed now. Voters need to be educated about IRV and how it will impact the next election.

Here are some first steps you can take to ensure a smooth transition to this new voting method:

1. Sign a contract with the vendor, Elections Systems and Software, as soon as possible, to give maximum time to develop, certify, test and deploy the hardware and software modifications that IRV will require;

2. Immediately begin informing the public that IRV is an approved mandate and will be in place for the November 4, 2003 election. Since this is an approved mandate, the only question that is still unanswered is whether or not the voting equipment will be ready in time for certification, or whether the city will have to count ballots by hand, a practice that has been in place for IRV elections for 70 years in Ireland and Australia.

3. Educate the public about how IRV is going to work. This is a new system, and the sooner voters who are interested can learn about the policy details (skipped rankings, duplicate rankings, reporting of results, etc.), the better understanding the public will have, and the easier the election will be to run. Meetings, workshops, brochures, and on-line information should all be tools you can use to educate all segments of the voter population.

Leaving the voters with doubt and uncertainty is bad public policy. Please educate the public as to the status of the contract with the elections equipment vendor, the timeline for implementation, and how the details of IRV will work.

This system has been successfully running in many other countries around the world, such as Ireland and Australia, as well as other cities around the country.

As the Elections Commission, you are responsible for efficiently implementing any changes that affect an election. Your early action on this will return San Francisco’s confidence in the election process.

Thank you for taking leadership on this issue and doing everything you can to implement the will of the voters.


Assemblyman Mark Leno; Supervisor Tom Ammiano; Supervisor Bevan Dufty; City Treasurer Susan Leal; Bart Director Tom Radulovich; School Board Member Mark Sanchez; Debra Walker; Member of the Democratic County Central Committee Connie O’Connor; Member of the Democratic County Central Committee Criss Romero; Member of the Democratic County Central Committee

Rich Kowalewski, Alice Club Co-chair
Theresa Sparks, Alice Club Co-chair
Robert Haaland, Milk Club President
Howard Wallace, Milk Club Vice-President, Internal
Enrique Asis, Milk Club Vice-President, Political Action

Community Leaders:

Richard Brooks Alba, *Local 790, Pride at Work, LCLAA (SF); Larry Brinkin; Harry Britt; Joey Cain; Gwenn Craig, Chair, SF Elections Task Force on Redistricting; Carole S. Cullum, Law Offices of Cullum & Sena; Denise D’Anne; Anna Damiani, Community Activist; Rick Galbreath, Former Elections Clerk; Michael Goldstein, Recorder, Milk Club; Roma Guy; Eileen Hansen, Community Activist; Diane Jones; Ken Jones; Esperanza Macias, former V.P., Milk Club; Jim Maloney; Dion Manley; Lea Militello; Tommi Avicolli Mecca; Rafael Mandelman, President, Noe Valley Dem. Club; Pat Norman; Naphtali Offen; Maggi Rubenstein; Jay R. Shaffer; Laura Spanjian, Treasurer, Noe Valley Dem Club / PR Chair of Alice; Jerry Threet, former President, Milk Club; Seth Ubogy; Phil Willkie; Hank Wilson

cc: Elections Commissioners
John Arntz, Executive Director, Elections Department
Dennis Herrera, City Attorney
Matt Gonzalez, President, Board of Supervisors
Kevin Shelley, Secretary of State