Calling for Consensus: PA Williams, NYCC Members + Advocates Push For Ranked Choice Voting

RCV will streamline competitive elections and produce consensus candidates; CC/NY launches website and releases new analysis on RCV in NYC

NEW YORK, NY (04/10/2019) (readMedia)-- Today, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, City Councilman Brad Lander, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY, and others joined together to urge the NYC Charter Revision Commission to recommend 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. Ranked choice voting would also allow more community based candidates to compete, particularly candidates of color.

WATCH the press conference here.

The NYC Charter Revision Commission will adopt a draft slate of proposals this month, that voters will ultimately approve or reject on the November ballot.

"Ranked choice voting is a common sense reform that will revolutionize the way New Yorkers vote," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "As we've seen in other cities, ranked choice voting helps community-based candidates win, creates consensus, and eliminates the winner-take-all mentality -- it's time to let New York City rank."

"Ranked Choice Voting is an efficient and effective way New York City can improve its outdated election laws, help end voter suppression and save taxpayer dollars," said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. "I proudly support this initiative and will push for its implementation at the city level."

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, the incumbents will be term-limited in approximately 70% of the City Council, all five borough presidencies, as well as the offices of the controller and the mayor. That means over 200 candidates will be competing over open seats.

Today, Common Cause/NY also launched a website and released ew 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, there 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.

Councilman Lander, Reynoso and Kallos are term limited in 2021, as is 70% of the New York City Council, and a multi-candidate election to replace them is likely.

"Ranked choice voting would be a much better system for New York City, and the Charter Revision Commission has an opportunity this year to significantly improve our elections by putting RCV on the ballot," said Council Member Brad Lander. "The data shows that RCV would mean increased voter participation, an end to the exclusion of military and overseas voters, more women and people-of-color in office, more communities seeing all the candidates, and less negative campaigning. All that, and it would save NYC millions of dollars by eliminating costly, low-turnout runoff elections. RCV is a win-win-win, and I'm proud to join Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Common Cause, Reinvent Albany, other good government groups, and my City Council Colleagues in calling on the Charter Revision Commission to include RCV as part of its deliberations, and to develop a ballot proposal to bring to the voters in November."

"New York City's current voter laws are antiquated and out of line with our reputation as a bastion of progressive and innovative policy," said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. "Our current system calls for a runoff election in citywide races where no candidate receives more than 40% of the vote. Runoffs are exorbitantly expensive, duplicative, and tend to work in favor of established candidates. Ranked choice voting (RCV) allows voters to express their preferences for a variety of candidates by ranking their top five choices. It is time for New York City to follow the lead of numerous other localities by implementing Ranked Choice Voting for more streamlined, competitive, representative and cost effective elections."

"Ranked Choice Voting is good for everyone involved in our city elections. It's good for the Board of Election: it makes more efficient use of resources by eliminating the need to hold a runoff in which historically very few voters take part. It's good for the candidates: it disincentivizes negative campaigning tactics/strategies and rewards cooperation among candidates," said David Marangio of Brooklyn Voters Alliance. "Most importantly, it's good for the voter and the whole city: it provides a more meaningful expression of the voter's preferences (or choices) in a single trip to the ballot box."

"New York City is long overdue for ranked choice voting. It is time for us to ditch run-off elections, in which few New Yorkers vote, in favor of ranked choice voting which ensures the voice of more voters are heard. We urge the Charter Revision Commission to place a proposal on the ballot this November that will allow New Yorkers to choose ranked choice voting," said Rachel Bloom, Director of Public Policy and Programs at Citizens Union.

"Ranked choice voting is an idea whose time has come," said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor of Reinvent Albany. "New Yorkers are very engaged following the 2018 election, and with rank choice voting, voters can choose the candidate they truly support without having to worry about wasting their vote. Similarly, new candidates can run for office without playing the role of spoiler."

"Ranked Choice Voting provides an opportunity to increase democracy and eliminate expensive, low turnout elections. This is an opportunity to streamline the democratic process. Thank you to Public Advocate Williams, Council Member Lander, and Common Cause for their effort," said Council Member Keith Powers.

"Ranked choice voting has a the power to change the demographics of New York City government. The NYC Charter Commission must put ranked choice voting on the ballot this November and let New Yorkers decide," said Jesse Laymon, Citizen Action NYC board chair.

"New York City should adopt Ranked Choice Voting for all citywide elections as soon as possible. This Charter Commission would be improving our democracy, saving our City millions of dollars and making elections better if they recommend Ranked Choice Voting and it is adopted," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Ranked Choice Voting has been used successfully around the country, since at least the 1940s. In 2016 Maine made it state law because it helps elect candidates who are supported by a majority of voters while at the same time increasing voter turnout and saving municipalities hundreds of thousands of dollars/"

"The League has been working to see ranked choice voting in new york city elections for many years. It will be a cost saver, and increase the percentage of voters who will vote for candidates," said Catherine Gray, co-president of the League of Women Voters of the City of New York.

Ranked choice voting allows voters to express their preferences for a variety of candidates by ranking their first five choices. If on election day when all the first-choices are counted there is one candidate who collects a majority of the vote, that candidate wins. If there's no majority, then the last-place candidate is eliminated and their votes re-allocated according to voter preferences. The process is repeated until there's a majority winner. The groups' proposal would implement Ranked Choice Voting for all NYC primary and special elections, including races for city council and citywide offices.

Other cities like San Francisco, Minneapolis and Santa Fe, have implemented ranked choice voting to revolutionize the way candidates campaign.

Ranked choice voting also helps change the composition of what our government looks like. According to a study done by Fair Vote, in the four Bay Area cities that use ranked choice voting, candidates of color have won 62% of those races, as compared to only 38% prior.