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Reviews |  Don’t Think Too Much About Ranked Choice Voting, New York City


Last month, that council endorsed Kathryn Garcia as mayor of New York City and urged voters to vote for her in the Democratic primary on June 22. (Early voting begins June 12.)

Normally that would be the end. But this year’s poll looks different, for the mayor and other city-wide races. Instead of having just one choice in each race, New York voters have the option of ranking up to five candidates, in order of preference.

Preferential voting, as it is called, has been used for decades around the world and has recently gained popularity in the United States. This is for good reason: it allows voters to vote for the candidates they really prefer, it forces candidates to attract more voters than they would in a traditional election, and the result is a winner who is acceptable to a majority of the electorate.

The whole point of representative democracy is – or should be – to elect leaders chosen by a large sample of voters and who are sensitive to each of them. This is all the more important today, when distortions like partisan gerrymandering have distorted the relationship between voters and their representatives.

New York City, which passed the preferential vote by referendum in 2019, is so far the largest jurisdiction in the country to try. This year’s Democratic primary is exactly what the system was designed to be. A large and diverse roster of candidates, none of whom appear likely to drop out of the field and win an absolute majority in the first count, is an ideal scenario for ranked voting.

Yet many New Yorkers remain confused or worried about the new system. Here’s how it works in practice, and here are the two key things to keep in mind when filling out your ballot.

First and foremost, vote with your heart, at least for your top choice. Don’t try to mess with the system or do mental gymnastics about your ranking. The advantage of ranked voting, unlike the traditional first-party voting method, is that you have the freedom to vote for the candidate you prefer while having a say in the outcome if that candidate does not. does not. double.

Second, it’s best if you fill out your ballot completely, which means ranking five candidates, not one, two, or three. You don’t have to, but if you do, the system works better. If you don’t and the candidate (s) you rank are eliminated, your ballot will stop counting. Completing all five rankings eliminates this “exhausted votes” problem and ensures that your vote will count in choosing the next mayor, even if that person was not your first (or second or third) choice.

It’s also a good idea to include at least one of the favorites on your ballot, even if you place it at the bottom. This way, you will have a better chance of having your say until the end.

What does this mean for the 2021 mayoral race and how to fill out your ballot?

If you agree with us that Ms. Garcia gets the job, rank her first. If you prefer another candidate, rank them first. After that, rank the other candidates you like – or who you could at least live with as mayor – in order of preference.

Whichever candidate you choose, be patient. Chances are, New Yorkers won’t know on election night who their next mayor will be. It may take a few weeks to get a final result, in fact.

Not only can classified ballots take longer to compile, but New York, after decades of operation during the electoral Dark Ages, has also finally adopted several modern electoral reforms, including advance voting and postal voting. without excuse. Postal ballots are allowed to arrive up to one week after the election, and voters have seven working days to resolve any issues that could invalidate their ballot. Since so many people are expected to vote by mail this year, these ballots can be decisive in one or more races.

The city plans to publish the first-choice totals of the advance polls and election day votes on election night. A week later, it will publish a prioritized tally of those ballots as well as any mail-in ballots that have arrived and have been processed, which could lead to a different candidate taking the lead.

As soon as all the postal ballots have been entered and the errors corrected, the city must promptly publish all the results. A bill under consideration in Albany would provide public access to raw digital ballot data within a week of an election, allowing anyone to run that data through ranked choice software and get a result. (The bill has passed the Senate and is awaiting a vote in the assembly.)

The bottom line: don’t overthink things. Vote for your favorite candidates, in the order you prefer. Fill out your ballot in full.

This year’s mayoral election is perhaps the most important in a generation, so it is fitting that voters have the opportunity to decide this election in a new and more democratic way. By adopting the preferential vote, New Yorkers have given themselves more voice in the choice of their leaders. It’s time to use it.



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