Brad Lander for NYC

Words and Updates from Brad Lander


How “Ranked Choice Voting” can improve NYC’s elections.

On February 26, New Yorkers will vote in a special election for Public Advocate. Because there could be as many as 20 candidates, someone could easily win with less than 30% of the vote.

And this election is not the only one we’ll have this year for the position. It could be the first of four (special, primary, runoff, and general election). The special election in February will be won with a simple plurality. But in the primary election in September, if no candidate wins 40% of the vote, we’ll have a runoff election two weeks later.   

If that happens, we’ll spend a lot of extra money, and very few people will vote. Back in 2013, turnout for the Public Advocate runoff election was only 7%, and New York City spent $13 million for that election.

NYC’s current voting laws mean that most of the time, candidates win primary & special elections without majority support. They require high-cost, low-turnout runoff elections for citywide offices. They encourage negative campaigning. And they disenfranchise military & overseas voters (since the Board of Elections can’t get them ballots in time for runoff elections).

There is a simple fix to all these problems: Ranked Choice Voting

Ranked Choice Voting (or RCV) allows voters to rank candidates for office on one simple ballot, in order of preference, rather than only voting for one candidate (although you can still vote for only one candidate, if you choose).

If no candidate win more 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.

RCV is already being used with great success in Maine, Minneapolis, San Francisco, and many countries around the world. Here are the benefits they report:

  • Increased voter participation.

  • Saves money (no more high-cost, low-turnout runoffs).

  • Friendlier campaigns.

  • More women and people of color elected to public office.

  • Full participation for military & overseas voters.

  • Stronger majority support for those elected.

Want all those benefits for New York City?

Please sign our petition to the 2019 NYC Charter Revision Commission, asking the Commission to consider Ranked Choice Voting for NYC.They’ll be looking at it in the coming weeks: just as the Public Advocate special election is taking place.

And forward the petition to a friend, or a few! If you want, you can include my video explainer (if you do, be sure to let them know that Ranked Choice Voting is sometimes also called Instant Runoff Voting).

Ranked Choice Voting won’t solve all the problems with NYC’s elections, that’s for sure. We need the State Legislature to adopt early voting, automatic voter registration, and reform of the Board of Elections. But RCV is something that NYC can do on our own, this year, to help bring us better elections.

So I hope you’ll vote in the special election for NYC Public Advocate next month. And I also hope we’ll use it as a chance to make our elections better.

We can start by bringing Ranked Choice Voting to NYC.


Annie Levers