Schleicher in San Francisco Chronicle: Redesign the Ballot

"Party labels are a lousy guide in local elections," says Professor David Schleicher, who proposes a redesigned ballot for San Francisco's nonpartisan elections for supervisors.

California law requires that city and county elections be conducted on a nonpartisan basis, says Schleicher. However, without cues from a party, many voters are unable to make judgments about the candidates, resulting often in blank ballots or votes cast on the basis of other factors, such as race or ethnicity.

Schleicher proposes a redesign of San Francisco's ballot, with the addition of whether or not the candidate was endorsed by the mayor appearing beside the name of the candidate where a party label would normally appear. He believes doing this would allow voters to vote based on what they know of the mayor and make a more informed choice based on how candidates might be expected to govern.

Schleicher believes this approach would likely improve mayoral accountability, too, as a popular mayor could govern with strong support from the board. Conversely, an unpopular mayor's endorsed candidates might not be elected, thereby forcing the mayor to compromise with the board.

Making democracy work in San Francisco, San Francisco Chronicle, February 28, 2010. By Chris Elmendorf and David Schleicher.