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News Release: 2010-09-13

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S.F.'s Ranked-Choice Voting system withstands federal legal challenge

U.S. District Court cites 'important government interests that are well-served by the limitation' to voters' top three electoral choices

SAN FRANCISCO (Sept. 13, 2010) -- A federal judge has ruled that the ranked-choice voting system San Francisco has employed to elect City officials since 2004 does not violate federal constitutional guarantees to free association, equal protection and due process. The legal challenge brought by an unsuccessful candidate for the Board of Supervisors charged that the system's limitation to three ranked choices ran afoul of those provisions under the U.S. Constitution's First and Fourteenth Amendments as well as the federal Civil Rights Act (42 U.S.C. § 1983).

The ruling issued by U.S. District Court Judge Richard Seeborg on Sept. 9 concluded that: "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. Defendants, for their part, have adequately identified important government interests that are well-served by the limitation. Accordingly, plaintiffs' request for either a permanent injunction or declaratory relief must be denied and defendants' motion for summary judgment must be granted."

The case is Dudum v. City and County of San Francisco, U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California, No. C 10-00504 RS.

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Last updated: 10/4/2010 4:02:09 PM