Calling for Consensus: Advocates and Elected Officials Push for Ranked Choice Voting

+ analysis of how RCV would've changed NYC elections from 2009-2013

NEW YORK, NY (08/10/2018) (readMedia)-- Today, Common Cause/NY, advocates, and elected officials filed recommendations with the Mayor's Charter Commission to consider Ranked Choice Voting: a consensus driven system that would allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, instead of a winner take all model.

On August 14, the Commission will instruct its staff on what proposed charter revisions to prepare. Final proposed charter revisions will go to New Yorkers as a referendum on the New York State ballot in November.

"Our current winner take all model of elections ends up with candidates winning elections without full majority support and raises fears of vote splitting," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "With Ranked Choice Voting, candidates are more likely to reach beyond their base and truly work for every vote. Common Cause/NY is looking forward to working with the Mayor's Charter Commission to bring this common-sense reform to New York."

Common Cause also released an analysis of how a RCV system would've effected outcomes in NYC elections between 2009-2013.

Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to rank candidates from first to last choice on their ballots. A candidate who collects a majority of the vote wins. If there's no majority, then the last-place candidate is eliminated and their votes reallocated according to preference. The process is repeated until there's a majority winner.

Eleven American cities, including San Francisco and Minneapolis, use Ranked Choice Voting. Recently, Santa Fe used Ranked Choice Voting to elect its mayor in March 2018. In an exit poll, more than 55% said they liked using the Ranked Choice Voting ballot, and more than 67% said that the ballot was "not at all confusing."

"Traditional winner-takes-all elections polarize candidates, limit the diversity of ideas, and waste taxpayer dollars," said Public Advocate Letitia James. "Ranked choice voting, also called Instant-runoff voting, is a more democratic and fiscally responsible election system. We've seen it work from Minneapolis and St. Paul to Oakland and San Francisco. It's past time we adopted it here in New York City."

"Ranked Choice Voting has been used successfully around the country in cities like Cambridge Massachusetts since at least the 1940s. More recently the entire state of Maine adopted it via referendum in 2016 because it helps elect candidates that are supported by a majority of voters while at the same time increasing voter turnout and saving municipalities hundreds of thousands if not millions of dollars, " said Council Member Ben Kallos. "New York City should adopt and use Ranked Choice Voting not just for all Citywide elections but for every local election as well."

"With voter turnout rates at an all-time low, it is imperative that we do all we can to ensure New Yorkers exercise their most fundamental democratic right," said New York City Comptroller Scott Stringer. "We cannot afford to be wasting tens of millions of dollars on rounds of elections that people don't participate in, and ranked choice voting proves a better system exists. It's a common sense reform that government leaders should embrace for New York City. Thank you to Common Cause NY for working to improve voting and civic engagement for all New Yorkers."

"This policy is a win-win-win," said Council Member Brad Lander. "Ranked choice voting – also known as instant runoff voting or IRV -- increases voter participation. It makes our elections more inclusive, by encouraging all candidates to reach out to all communities. And it will save the city millions of dollars. If we want a truly representative electoral system, we need to make the switch to Ranked Choice Voting, and now is our chance."

"Instant runoff -- or ranked choice -- voting prioritizes voter choice and eliminates expensive, low turnout elections. The easier we can make the voting process, the more people we can turn out for elections. I am glad support a modern way of voting and am hopeful the Charter Revision Commission will consider this initiative for all city races, and all elections," said Council Member Keith Powers.

'At a time when we need more solidarity, joint issue-building, and intersectionality, ranked choice voting is a no-brainer. It will encourage our local representatives to engage with constituents and communities beyond their base, and truly speak to and for a majority. The NYC Charter Revision Commission must go the extra mile in their recommendations and give New Yorkers the choice and voice they deserve," said Steven Choi, Executive Director of the New York Immigration Coalition.

"Ranked choice voting increases the likelihood that the person elected will be someone voters have cast a ballot for, even if it was not their first choice. It also incentivizes more positive campaigning and encourages candidates to go outside their natural constituency and gain a broader base of support. Especially in a crowded primary, where NYC elections are so often decided, this reform allows voters a stronger voice in the election process," said Nicole Hunt, Brooklyn Voters Alliance

"This year we see how competitive races; fresh, diverse candidates; and renewed civic engagement are transforming NY politics. Rank choice voting will further this transformation by ensuring candidates meaningfully engage with all their constituents and by increasing the power of the individual at the ballot box," said Danielle Brecker, Empire State Indivisible.

"Instant Runoff Voting is one of the best proposals for breathing new life into American democracy. Under our current laws, small pluralities are enabled to determine who represent a district, making it possible that a large majority of voters will oppose the candidate who comes to represent them. By changing elections so that voters are given more choices, IRV allows for a fairer system," said Tom Speaker, NYC