BPs Adams + Brewer, Speaker Johnson, Comptroller Stringer: We Need to Invest in Ranked Choice Voting NOW

City officials come together to pledge commitment to new voting reform

NEW YORK, NY (02/12/2020) (readMedia)-- Today four leading city officials joined together to pledge their shared commitment to investing in voter education and outreach about Ranked Choice Voting ahead of the 2021 local elections. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, NYC Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Comptroller Scott Stringer prioritized investing in community based organizations to educate historically disenfranchised communities who stand to benefit the most from Ranked Choice Voting, as well as extensive outreach across the city. Common Cause/NY, will be hosting trainings for candidates, co-sponsoring forums for voters, and partnering closely with city officials to make sure Ranked Choice Voting is a success.

"New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted to approve Ranked Choice Voting because it puts power back in the hands of the people by giving them more choice and more voice in our political system. Historically disenfranchised communities stand to benefit the most from Ranked Choice Voting -- communities of color, women, and immigrants among others -- and we are committed to making sure all New Yorkers understand how to make the most of it, " said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY

"There's nothing more sacred in our democracy than voting, and that's why I support Ranked Choice Voting, because it is the truest expression of the will of the people," said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. "Today, we're calling for a real investment in voter education and outreach about Ranked Choice Voting, so that all communities, no matter their zip code, race, or income level, are fully informed about the new voting process in New York City. We have to be proactive and take action to ensure voters are informed because every vote matters and every voice should be heard."

"Elections don't count if every vote isn't counted fully and fairly and that's why I'm calling on the City Council to invest $10 million in voter outreach and education. New York can be the model for other cities and states around the country when it comes to Ranked Choice Voting - we want to ensure that model is the right one," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. "But it doesn't stop with asking the City Council to fund this important initiative - I'm excited to announce that we'll be holding our first dedicated voter education forum at Brooklyn Borough Hall on April 2nd and I call on all other Borough Presidents to do the same at their Borough Halls or we can take ours on the road and come to your borough."

"Ranked Choice Voting protects the will of voters, saves us all from low-turnout and costly runoff elections, and has an excellent track record in other cities," said Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer. "It will make our city's democracy stronger, and we must do all we can to make sure all communities are well-informed about its implementation."

"We've seen the benefits of ranked choice voting across the country. Now we will see them in New York City. It saves taxpayers money, builds voter enthusiasm and increases candidate diversity. I'm proud that the Council, then-Public Advocate Letitia James and Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer created the Charter Revision Commission that put ranked choice voting on the ballot – and that New Yorkers overwhelming voted in favor of the measure. Now we must make sure we have adequate funds for outreach and education so voters understand how to list their choices at the polls," said Speaker Corey Johnson.


Ranked Choice Voting gives voters the option to rank their top five candidates in local New York City primary and special elections. If voters still want to vote for just one candidate, they can. A candidate who collects a majority of the vote, fifty percent plus one, wins. If there's no majority winner, then the last place candidate will be eliminated and the second choice votes for that candidate are redistributed. The process is repeated until there is a majority winner. New York City voters overwhelmingly approved ranked choice voting via ballot referendum in the Fall of 2019. It will take effect for city primary and special elections in 2021.

Ranked Choice Voting is a simple, proven and worthy model that encourages candidates to build broad support from across the community, and empowers voters to cast their ballot based on their hopes, not their fears. It not only creates a more efficient and representative electoral system, but also equalizes the voting process for disenfranchised communities. It saves the city money by eliminating costly runoff elections, and produces consensus candidates.

Ranked Choice Voting has been implemented in other cities like San Francisco, Minneapolis and Santa Fe, and in countries like Australia and Ireland, to great success. Maine will use Ranked Choice Voting to select their presidential nominee. Studies have shown that under this system, candidates are more likely to campaign positively to broader electorates in the hopes of being ranked second or third, helping to create consensus candidates with majority support.

In a diverse city like New York the "spoiler effect" is a real concern among candidates of color. Ranked Choice Voting prevents the "spoiler effect," and encourages coalition building. Surveys conducted in California found major gains for people of color, increasing representation in majority-minority districts by 17 percent, multi-ethnic districts by 24 percent, and white majority districts by 9 percent. Additionally, according to a study done by Fair Vote, in the four Bay Area cities that use RCV, candidates of color have won 62% of those races, as compared to only 38% prior.

Ranked Choice Voting also saves money by eliminating costly run-off elections, like the 2013 Democratic primary run-off for public advocate cost more than $11 million. And voters like it too. A two year study by the Democracy Fund found that voters in cities with Ranked Choice Voting were happier with campaign conduct and experienced less negative campaigning than voters in places that do not. When candidates have to compete to be voters' second and third choices, it reduces negative campaigning.

In the last three election cycles in New York City, sixty-three percent of multi-candidate primaries were won with less than 50% of the vote, 30% were won with less than 40%, and nearly 10% were won with less than 30%. In 2021, close to 70% of the New York City Council members, and all five borough presidents, the Comptroller and Mayor, will be term limited. The New York City Campaign Finance Board is already anticipating the opening of at least 500 campaign committees, which averages to 12 candidates per race.

In early April, Common Cause/NY released a new analysis that builds on a previous report -- The Case for Ranked Choice Voting in New York City -- which quantifies the prevalence of multi-candidate primaries in the last three election cycles in NYC.

The study found:

Over the last three election cycles, the average number of candidates ranged from 4 to 5.

Over the last three election cycles, less than 15% of multi-candidate primaries with 4 or more candidates produced majority support winners.

In 2013, the last primary election cycle with a wave of open seats, no race with 4 or more candidates produced a majority support winner.