New York’s crowded Democratic mayor’s primary will not only determine the likely winner, but will also be a major test for the ranked vote, which the city is using for the first time in a city-wide election.
According to FairVote, a non-partisan group that advocates for electoral reforms, choice voting has grown in popularity and covers jurisdictions now representing more than 9.2 million voters. New York City is by far the largest of those jurisdictions, with around 5 million active registered voters in February, including more than 3.3 million registered Democrats.
In 2019, with nearly 75% of the vote, voters in New York City overwhelmingly approved a ranked choice voting system for primary elections for mayor, city council and other municipal elections.
How does preferential voting work?
Voters will be able to rank up to five candidates for mayor and other municipal elections on the ballot. Other elections, like the much-publicized Manhattan District Attorney’s Race, will not use the preferential vote.
The ballot will list the candidates in a column on the left. Voters will mark their first choice in the column next to the candidate’s name. There will be four additional columns for voters to rank their second, third, fourth and fifth choice. It is not necessary to rank five candidates for a ballot to count.
If a voter makes a mistake when voting in person, such as accidentally placing two candidates second, the voter can get a new ballot at the polling station to resolve the problem or leave the ballot as is, and this does not happen. ‘will only have an impact on the race. it was not properly voted on. Voters by mail will not have this option.
Any candidate winning the majority of the first choice votes wins the primary.
In the absence of a majority, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes will be eliminated and the second-choice supporters will be redistributed to the remaining candidates. If a candidate still does not have a majority, the candidate with the fewest remaining votes is eliminated and the second or third choice of supporters is awarded to the remaining candidates. The process of elimination and redistribution continues until a candidate wins a majority.
Where has preferential voting been used?
According to FairVote’s tally, more than 428 elections have used preferential voting in 26 jurisdictions since 2004, when San Francisco began using it in municipal elections. Maine uses the system for many of its elections, and voters in Alaska adopted a voting initiative last year to adopt ranked voting for federal offices and many state races. Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s reelection race will use ranked voting in the 2022 midterm election.
But given the size of New York City and an election unfolding in an otherwise quiet political year, supporters of the system are well aware that this will be a major test for the preferential vote.
Rob Richie, CEO of FairVote, said New York City’s size and the number of candidates in the race make it a “national barometer” for how ranking pick will work “under a lot of pressure.” While he doesn’t think his fate is necessarily tied to New York City, he acknowledged that the mayoral election is likely to have an impact.
“If New York is seen to be doing badly, a lot of other officials will say, ‘wait a sec, we’ve got a lot more kicking in the tires,’” said Richie. And if all goes well, it “will accelerate its spread because it will be highly publicized”.
Perhaps the biggest challenge for the city is educating voters on the new system ahead of the primaries. In April, Mayor Bill de Blasio announced that the city would spend $ 15 million on voter education, including ads across multiple platforms, printed materials in more than 18 languages, and direct voter outreach.
New York City hosted four special city council elections with preferential voting earlier this year. Seventy-five percent of voters said they were familiar with preferential voting before voting, and 95 percent of those polled said they thought the ballot was easy to fill out, according to the exit poll. ‘Edison Research for Common Cause. But these elections had a fairly low turnout, and voters in special city council elections are often among the most engaged and experienced.
Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said poll numbers show that ballot design is intuitive to voters. Still, she knows it will take a major effort to educate millions of potential voters about the changes.
“I don’t think any of us can guarantee that 100% every voter in the city will know before they get to the polling station, but that’s our goal,” Lerner said.
For voters who haven’t heard of the new process when they show up at the polls, there will be signs and instructions on the privacy pack to guide voters, Lerner said.
Councilor Eric Dinowtiz, who represents part of the Bronx, won one of the special preferential elections. He said community groups, volunteers and candidates had to shoulder much of the voter education efforts in his race. He wants voter education to begin after the adoption of the ballot initiative, but is happy that the city is getting more involved. Voters in his constituency have had mixed experiences with the new system, but he hopes mass education efforts will reach all corners of the electorate.
“I wouldn’t give my students a test without preparing them,” Dinowitz, a former teacher, told CBS News. “We have a job as a city to make sure our residents are well educated.”
Former Democratic congressional candidate Suraj Patel, who lost a controversial primary in 2020, which took weeks to sort out, said he was not concerned that the priority vote would cause administration problems. But he is concerned about voter education.
“A lot of people have not been fully educated on how to run a ranked election,” Patel said, referring to voter education efforts. “There is a lot of confusion and there is a lot of misinformation about it.”
Be prepared to wait
Due to New York’s election laws, it will likely be several days before we know who won the Democratic mayor’s primary. The primary day is June 22, but mail and military ballots can arrive until June 29. The deadline for voters to correct any curable flaws, such as a signature issue, with a mail-in ballot is July 9, according to the New York City Board of Elections. .
Unofficial results are expected to be released on the evening of primary, possibly from the first round of tabulation. After that round, election officials will have to stop counting and will not be able to start again until after the July 9 deadline, according to the New York City Board of Elections. This means that voters are likely not to know who won the election for weeks due to the rules governing postal ballots. New York City Council of Elections commissioners will meet next week and may change the timing of results presentation.
Right now, a candidate might have a slight lead immediately after the calculation of the first ballot, but might not win the race after all the votes are counted weeks later. Five of the eight candidates who were on the debate stage last week said if this happened to them, they would accept the election results. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, former Wall Street executive Ray McGuire and New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer did not respond.
In special city council elections, election officials took several days to manually count ballots in races that required extra rounds because the ranked choice tabbing software had not been certified by the state.
The state’s electoral board has tested tabulation software to handle the ranking vote tabulation process for the June primary, but it is still not certified. This software would considerably speed up the counting. The board is scheduled to meet on May 25 and may approve the software during that meeting.
The state electoral council did not respond to requests for comment on the results schedule or tabulation software. A spokesperson for the board told The City that the “certification process is going as planned.”