SF Election Results

November 9, 2011 by staff 

SF Election Results, San Francisco interim mayor Edwin M. Lee appeared well ahead of more than a dozen rivals Tuesday night in his bid to keep the mayoral post for another four years, according to early results tallied by the city’s Department of Elections.

Shortly after 9:30pm, the Elections Department said that of the ballots counted so far, 33.3% of San Franciscans who voted for a mayoral candidate selected Mr. Lee, followed by 16.7% for city Supervisor John Avalos, 11.2% for City Attorney Dennis Herrera and 8.9% for Board of Supervisors President David Chiu.

The counted ballots included those cast at polling places on Tuesday, along with vote-by-mail ballots the city received before Election Day, and represented about 24.3% of the city’s 464,380 registered voters. San Francisco Director of Elections John Arntz said he didn’t know Tuesday night how many total ballots ended up being cast—some, such as those with write-in votes, couldn’t be tallied Tuesday—but in the past several mayoral elections, turnout has ranged between 36% and 52%.

Mr. Lee, a longtime city bureaucrat, was appointed as the short-term mayor in January after then-mayor Gavin Newsom left the post to become lieutenant governor for California. Mr. Lee had vowed to the city board of supervisors, which appointed him, that he wouldn’t try to keep his mayoral post in the coming election. But over the summer, the 59-year-old broke that promise and decided to run.

That doesn’t appear to have been a liability for Mr. Lee, who has enjoyed front-runner status ever since adding his name to the list of candidates, with voters seeing him as a low-key consensus-builder. Critics say Mr. Lee has damaged his relationships with some would-be allies and that, going forward, he could have a tougher time striking deals.

If elected, Mr. Lee would be the first Chinese-American to be chosen by San Franciscans as mayor.

Jim Ross, a longtime political consultant in San Francisco, said the results represented a “watershed election for Chinese voters in San Francisco,” with nearly half of the vote going to Chinese candidates. He said Mr. Lee is “still likely to win.”

Though Mr. Lee appeared ahead on Tuesday night, the city’s use of an unorthodox election method known as ranked choice—in which voters are asked to select not only a first choice for mayor, but also a second and third—sometimes leads to upsets of apparent front-runners. The early results showed each candidate’s first-choice votes only. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, San Franciscans’ second and third choices will be used to determine a winner. An early tally of second and third choices will be released Wednesday afternoon.

On Tuesday night, Mr. Lee celebrated with supporters and campaign workers at Très, a Mexican restaurant in San Francisco’s South of Market neighborhood where a number of Internet companies have laid down roots. The neighborhood restaurant was a fitting choice for the mayor, who has benefited from an unusual level of support from Silicon Valley financiers and executives after he pushed for millions of dollars in tax breaks earlier this year for Twitter Inc. and Zynga Inc.

By the end of Election Day, the city was expected to report results from all polling places, but some ballots couldn’t be processed, including vote-by-mail ballots that the Department of Elections received on Election Day, provisional ballots cast at polling places and ballots with write-in votes. It is expected to take the city at least two weeks to process those ballots.

Meanwhile, the use of the ranked-choice method in San Francisco could impact the final results yet. San Francisco has used the ranked-choice voting method for years, but this is the first time it is being used in a competitive mayoral race. In a ranked-choice election, the candidate who wins more than half the first-choice votes is the winner. If no candidate wins more than half these votes, the candidate who received the fewest number of first-choice votes is eliminated.

Voters who had selected that eliminated candidate have their votes transferred to their second choice. The votes are then recounted. If any remaining candidate receives more than half the votes, he or she is the winner. The elimination process is repeated, if necessary, until one candidate has a majority.

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