SF neighborhood vote data reveals key reason for ouster

Chesa Boudin won his 2019 election by the skin of his teeth, beating out challenger Suzy Loftus by less than 2%. On Tuesday, San Francisco rejected Boudin by a much larger margin: Initial results indicate that around 60% of voters voted to recall the controversial DA

This is partly because of who showed up to vote this time around, a Chronicle analysis of preliminary neighborhood-level data shows. While turnout for Tuesday’s election will likely be similar to that of Boudin’s initial election, areas where Boudin had lower support in 2019 turned out in higher numbers relative to neighborhoods that supported him.

The Chronicle examined neighborhoods’ share of the electorate in the 2019 election and compared it with their share of the electorate on Tuesday. Neighborhoods that voted for one of Boudin’s challengers in 2019, including the Sunset, the Marina and Pacific Heights, made up a larger share of the electorate in the 2022 election than they did in 2019.

West Twin Peaks and the Sunset saw the greatest increase in turnout, going from a combined 16.7% of the electorate in 2019 to 18.7% in 2022. Both of these neighborhoods voted strongly in favor of the recall: 67% of West Twin Peaks voters thing Yes on Measure H, as did 70% of Sunset voters.

Meanwhile, neighborhoods seen as Boudin strongholds — the Mission, the Haight and northern Bernal Heights, for example — all saw their share of the electorate decline in 2022. The Mission, which is the largest pro-Boudin neighborhood in the city, saw the largest decrease in turnout share, going from 6.3% of voters to 5.1%.

This data is still preliminary: It includes only votes from mail-in ballots cast before election day and those cast in person on election day, which likely add up to almost 60% of the expected vote total, according to the Department of Elections. Another 40% or more remains to be counted from vote-by-mail ballots received by the Department of Elections on election day or in the coming days. To make our analysis as close to apples to apples as possible, we examined turnout numbers from the last data reported on the nights of the 2019 and 2022 elections.

It’s difficult to directly compare these two elections in terms of what they measure about public sentiment around Boudin, or overall public safety in the city. Unlike Tuesday’s election, which ended up being largely about a single candidate, the 2019 election asked voters to cast their ballots for the mayor, DA, city attorney, public defender, sheriff and several other races in the year before a presidential election.

More on Chesa Boudin Recall

While turnout for this election was initially expected to be very low based on early return rates, which measure how many people returned mail-in ballots before election day, the Department of Elections is now anticipating turnout among registered voters to hit 46% — higher than the 42% rate seen in the 2019 election, and a lot higher than the 36% rate for the February school board recall.

Just like in 2019, Boudin’s support on Tuesday came primarily from precincts that score high on the Chronicle’s Progressive Voter Index, which uses each precinct’s voting history on different ballot measures to give it a score from most to least “progressive.” The PVI index shows that neighborhoods in the city’s core — the Haight, the Mission and Bernal Heights — tend to vote more progressively than those on its outer rim, like Lake Merced, Visitacion Valley and the Marina.

These outer-core neighborhoods, which voted against Boudin in 2019, also voted against him on Tuesday. But this time, they were joined by several neighborhoods that voted for Boudin in 2019, including the Bayview, the Tenderloin and the Richmond.

Susie Neilson is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer, and Nami Sumida is a Chronicle data visualization developer. Email: susan.neilson@sfchronicle.com, nami.sumida@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @susieneilson, @namisumida

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