San Francisco City Hall
At a hearing in San Francisco today, Federal District Court Judge Richard Seeborg said he was likely to reject a challenge to San Francisco’s Ranked Choice Voting system. This was the first—and perhaps last—hearing on a lawsuit challenging the particular methodology of San Francisco’s Ranked Choice (or Instant Runoff) Voting system. The plaintiffs in the case, led by perennial losing San Francisco candidate Ron Dudum, argue that San Francisco’s system is unconstitutional because it limits voters to vote for three candidates at a time.
The plaintiffs have a tough sell.
Most elections in the United States limit voters to one choice. Being able to vote for three candidates in one race is a veritable bonanza of choices.
Technically speaking, today’s hearing was on the issue of whether or not the judge should issue an injunction to prevent the City and County of San Francisco from conducting Ranked Choice Voting elections in which voters have the option of ranking up to three candidates. Almost immediately upon taking the bench, Judge Seeborg said he was inclined to deny the Motion for a Preliminary Injunction. Judge Seeborg explained his reasoning and, in so doing, knocked down the arguments of the plaintiffs one by one.
The hearing lasted about an hour with most of that time taken up by the plaintiffs arguing their case. The judge was very respectful and deferential and gave the plaintiffs’ attorney ample time to make his points.
The judge also ruled that he would admit the Amicus Brief submitted by the New America Foundation; however, he said he would not admit the additional exhibits and Declarations which accompanied the Brief. The Judge said he would allow the plaintiffs one week to respond to this ruling and to submit any additional material. It seems that a final decision by the judge would come shortly after that week is up.
One of the outstanding questions, first posed here on this blog, is where the money is coming from to finance this expensive lawsuit. The press may be finally catching on. Following the hearing, two reporters peppered the two plaintiffs’ lawyers with questions which the attorneys seemed only too happy to answer; that is, until the question of money came up. One reporter asked whether “Citizens for Better Housing” was financing the lawsuit. “Citizens for Better Housing” is an organization and PAC which fights rent control and, according to their website “is comprised of the owners of over 20,000 apartment units in San Francisco.” Once the money question was posed, the otherwise talkative mouthpieces clammed up and walked away.