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Analysis Of April Voter Data Leads Us To Estimate City Hall's Ballot Rotation System As Implemented Will Give Roughly Twice The Number Of Likely Voters Materials w/ Incumbent O'Donnell's Candidate Statement & Ballot Listing First...Although Challenger Supernaw Received First Priority In Sec'y of State's Random Ballot Order Draw


(May 18, 2012) -- An analysis of voter turnout data from the April 2012 4th district Council election leads to estimate that under a City Council-directed ballot rotation system as implemented by the City Clerk's office, roughly 2/3 of likely 4th Council district runoff voters -- from the higher voter turnout areas of the district (green in map below) -- are being sent sample ballots displaying incumbent Patrick O'Donnell's candidate statement first, and will vote using ballots listing incumbent O'Donnell's name first.

Roughly half that number, roughly a third of the district's likely voters (in the western, generally lower turnout areas, brown in map below) will see Daryl Supernaw's sample ballot candidate statement and ballot printed name listed first

The outcome is despite the fact that Mr. Supernaw won priority ballot ranking (listing ahead of O'Donnell) under a random alphabetic draw conducted by the CA Secretary of State's office for the June election. bases this estimate on the City Clerk's voter count from the April 10, 2012 4th dist. Council election which indicates who voted and where they voted. If those April 10 voter trends are replicated in the June 5 runoff, we estimate that roughly twice the number of likely voters will see O'Donnell's candidate statement ahead of challenger Supernaw in their sample ballot booklet, and will see incumbent O'Donnell's name listed first on the ballot they use.

The outcome results from a City Council-directed ballot rotation system stemming from a 2011 item (agendized by Councilmembers Johnson, Andrews, Neal) which noted that an analysis by Stanford University researchers of election data over a nine year period indicated that on average, City Council and School Board candidates listed first were 5.6% more likely to win as a result of their ballot position. "This is significant enough to change the outcome in future elections and make future representatives the result of chance, not merit," the Councilmembers wrote.

The stated intention of the Council-directed ballot rotation system was to "enhance the integrity and fairness of our local elections"...and in the second of two enacting votes on April 3, 2012, the council directed use of a ballot rotation system as a pilot project for the June 2012 election cycle.

Using precincts clustered by City Hall's Technology Services Department, the City Clerk assigned Mr. Supernaw the clusters generally to the west, and Councilman O'Donnell clusters generally to the east. It's unclear at this point how the City Clerk's office determined which candidate received which cluster (east or west). The ordinance as enacted by the Council didn't give the City Clerk explicit direction on this point...but did allow flexibility to arrange arrange the clusters in non-contiguous (checkerboard) fashion, which wasn't done [and would have spread the ballot rotation across the district instead of nearly splitting it geographically].

In the April 10 initial election, Mr. Supernaw finished first although he was listed second. Councilman O'Donnell wasn't listed at all because he ran a write-in campaign for a third Council term in which he finished second (which allows him to have his name printed on the ballot for the June 5 runoff).

In 2011, Councilman O'Donnell declared his candidacy for what appeared to be an open Assembly seat in 2012 (since incumbent Assemblywoman Bonnie Lowenthal announced she would seek a newly drawn state Senate seat). However when Assemblywoman Lowenthal changed her mind and opted to remain in the Assembly for another two year term (ending in 2014), Councilman O'Donnell indicated he would seek a third Council term via the city's write-in procedure. At a March 2012 Stearns Park Council district candidates forum, Councilman O'Donnell stopped short of categorically ruling out a run for the Assembly in 2014 when it's expected to become vacant again.

The candidate who prevails in June 5 runoff for the 4th district Council seat will have a co-equal vote with all other Councilmembers on development, budget priorities and policy issues affecting every Council district and impacting residents and taxpayers citywide.

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