Brad Lander for NYC

Ranked Choice Voting Additional Info

Bringing “Ranked-Choice Voting” to NYC

Better elections, with higher turnout & less negative campaigning.

Eliminate costly, low-turnout runoffs.

More diverse candidates, with stronger majority support.

What is Ranked Choice Voting?

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) allows voters to rank candidates for office in order of preference, rather than only voting for one candidate (although voters can still vote for only one candidate, if they choose). If no candidate achieves greater than 50% of the vote in the initial count, this ranking system allows for an automatic recounting (or “instant runoff”) to determine the winner of the election, based on all voters’ order of preferences.

In New York City, this automatic re-tallying of voters’ ranked preferences would replace the expensive, low-turnout runoff elections in citywide primary elections. And it would help in special elections & City Council primaries, where candidates frequently win with only 30% of the vote, or even less. In June, the 2019 Charter Revision Commission adopted our recommendation to put Ranked Choice Voting on the ballot. NYC voters have the opportunity in November to choose to bring Ranked Choice Voting to NYC.

Why RCV is a Better System for NYC

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV)

NYC’s Current Voting System

Violates majority rule In races with numerous candidates, it is common for a winning candidate to receive significantly less than 50% of the vote. Since, 2009, more than 63% of NYC’s multi-candidate primaries were won with less than 50% of the vote, and in nearly 30% of those elections, less than 40%.

Promotes majority rule Ensures that the winning candidate has received more than 50% of the vote based on voter preferences.

Eliminates need for runoffs. Increases voter turnout. With RCV, one election determines the winner, without the    need for an expensive runoff election. RCV is proven to increase voter turnout. In Oakland, CA, a 2010 election using RCV increased voter participation by 42%. In San Francisco, RCV increased voter turnout by 2.7  times in a 2005 election over a projected runoff and quadrupled turnout in the city’s six most racially/socioeconomically diverse neighborhoods.

Requires costly, low-turnout runoff elections. In citywide primary elections (for mayor, public advocate, or comptroller), when no candidate wins 40% of the vote, NYC’s laws currently require a runoff election. These are costly and usually very low-turnout. iN 2013, NYC spent $13 million on the Democratic primary for Public Advocate. In that race, voter participation dropped 62% between the primary and its runoff, with runoff turnout of less than 7%.

Leads to more women and people of color in office. A 2016 study of the effects of RCV shows that the introduction of RCV in California led to an increase in the proportion of women, and especially women of color, winning local political office. Voters are able to indicate a favorite candidate preference—regardless of that candidate’s chance of winning—and a second choice. A 2018 study shows just how well voters are using that new power in San Francisco.

Creates opportunities for “spoiler” candidacies. In races with more than two candidates, a “spoiler” candidate without a real chance of winning can swing the election.

Discourages negative campaigning & promotes inclusion. A comprehensive Rutgers University poll of voters in 7 cities   with instant runoff voting found that voters reported friendlier campaigns and that RCV had majority support in all of the cities using it.

Creates incentives for negative campaigning. When leading candidates know that many voters will ignore  minor candidates because they can’t win, they can focus on    one another and use attack ads to persuade voters to their side. Turning a voter off of a candidate is often cheaper than persuading them to vote for you.

Allows full participation of military & overseas voters. NYC voters who are overseas for a military deployment or extended trip can rank their preferences on their initial ballot, so their votes are still counted in the case no one candidate receives 50% of the votes.

Disenfranchises military & overseas voters. Because NYC’s current runoff elections in citywide primaries take place just two weeks after the primary, there is no time to print new ballots and mail them to NYC voters who are overseas for a military deployment or extended trip. They are therefore disenfranchised from voting in runoff elections.

How are votes counted?

When electing a single candidate—like a race for Mayor, all first choices are tallied. If a candidate wins a greater than 50% majority among the first-choice votes, that candidate is the winner. If not, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. The second choices from those ballots are then added to the remaining candidates. This process continues until one candidate receives a majority of the final votes. Video:

RCV image explainer.jpg

Where is Ranked-Choice Voting currently used?

Ranked choice voting has a long history of use in U.S. elections. It is currently being used in statewide elections in Maine, and local elections in San Francisco, Minneapolis, Cambridge, and Memphis. Software is already up-and-running in Maine & Minneapolis, which use the same voting machines as NYC. Ranked choice voting is used nationwide in Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Northern Ireland, and Scotland.