Demanding Consensus: BP Brewer, CM Lander + Advocates Push for Ranked Choice Voting

W/ 17 candidates running for public advocate, ranked choice voting will streamline competitive elections and produce consensus candidates

NEW YORK, NY (02/06/2019) (readMedia)-- Hours before 10 out of the 17 candidates for NYC Public Advocate debated for the first time, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Councilman Brad Lander, Susan Lerner from Common Cause/NY, Rachel Bloom from Citizens Union, Alex Camarda from Reinvent Albany joined together to demand that the NYC Charter Revision Commission recommend Ranked Choice Voting (RCV): a consensus driven system that would allow voters to rank candidates in order of preference, instead of a winner take all model.

You can watch the event HERE.

There are 17 people are on the ballot for Public Advocate -- one of the most crowded races in New York City history. Whoever wins the February 26th special election will likely claim victory without support from a majority of the City's voters, and will likely lack democratic legitimacy as a result. Common Cause/NY is proposing a way to address this issue with Ranked Choice Voting.

Ranked Choice Voting would change the way candidates campaign, forcing them to reach beyond their base in order to build majority support and eliminating spoiler accusations. RCV also eliminates the need for costly, low-turnout runoff elections. In 2013, NYC spent $13 million on the public advocate runoff between Letitia James and Daniel Squadron.

"The Public Advocate special election is the perfect example of why New York City needs ranked choice voting," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY. "With 17 people vying for one seat, none of whom is likely to succeed with a majority, leaving voters to question the winner's legitimacy. Ranked Choice Voting will create consensus candidates who can unite diverse communities, and reflect the true preferences of voters. It's a win-win for voters and candidates -- it's time New York City let voters rank."

RCV allows voters to rank candidates from first to last choice on the ballot. A candidate who collects a majority of the vote wins. If there's no majority, then the last-place candidate will be eliminated and votes reallocated. The process is repeated until there's a majority winner.

Eleven American cities, including San Francisco, Oakland 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."

"Ranked Choice Voting is a great idea that will make the election process less complicated, which will help us achieve our ultimate goal of encouraging more New Yorkers to vote. It will also save city taxpayers money. I strongly believe this is something we should all get behind. I thank Council Member Brad Lander, Susan Lerner and the entire team at Common Cause for championing this great initiative," said City Council Speaker Corey Johnson.

"Ranked Choice Voting is a fair election system that strengthens democracy, saves money, and ensures that the winner has support from a majority of voters," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer. "As 10 candidates for Public Advocate take the debate stage tonight and many more join them on the ballot, I'm reminded again of why we should bring RCV to NYC."

"Ranked choice voting would be a better way to select NYC's next Public Advocate -- and all of NYC's elected officials," said Council Member Brad Lander. "Instead of a winner with support that's unlikely to break 30%, we'd have a winner with a strong majority. And we would not need to vote on the same office two (or even three!) more times this year. In the longer term, 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 even friendlier campaigns. All that, and it would save NYC millions of dollars by eliminating costly, low-turnout runoff elections. Whoever you choose for NYC Public Advocate, it's time to choose ranked choice voting for NYC."

"Ranked choice voting enhances the voice of the people while saving taxpayers' money," said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams. "It encourages civility in candidates and ultimately arrives at a candidate that has the most widespread support in the community. There is no reasonable argument for continuing to rely on runoff elections when a proven system of avoiding the costs of a runoff while simultaneously benefitting our system of democracy exists."

"Ranked Choice Voting is an idea whose time has come in New York City," said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor at Reinvent Albany. "It will ensure military and overseas votes are counted, make campaigns more issue-focused, and ensure candidates elected truly are supported by a wide breadth of the electorate."

"Ranked choice voting would make our elections more fair and representative of the true will of the people," said Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer. "Our current winner-takes-all system is flawed and in need of reforms. We should not allow candidates to win races with only a small plurality of the electorate, and we should do all that we can to avoid ridiculously expensive and low turnout run-offs. Allowing voters to rank their preferences on the ballot will ensure that the winner actually is a consensus choice."

"As a candidate who had to suffer through a runoff election, no one can speak to the need for ranked choice voting more clearly than I can. Ranked choice voting ensures that the voice of more voters are heard and would streamline New York City elections," said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director of Citizens Union.

"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 role of the Public Advocate is to uplift the voices of all New Yorkers, and there is no reason the election process shouldn't reflect that. 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 has been used successfully around the country in cities like Cambridge, Massachusetts, 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," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "New York City should adopt Ranked Choice Voting not just for all Citywide elections but for every local election as well."

"On February 26th, New York City voters will face a crowded ballot for Public Advocate-and the winner will probably receive less than half of the vote. Implementing ranked choice voting in New York City elections would solve this problem: by allowing voters to rank the candidates on their ballot, we would get competitive elections in which candidates win with broad support. Voters should be able to express their preferences without fearing that they're throwing their vote away, and candidates should be able to run for office without worrying that they're splitting the vote or spoiling the election," said Teri Hagedorn of Represent New York.

"Voting should not be a game of picking the least bad option. It should be an authentic act of conscience, a decision to support a candidate based on one's values and ideals. Unfortunately, this is not what our current system encourages. Rather, for decades, voters have either hesitated to vote their preferences or opted out of voting altogether to maintain their integrity. We can rectify this anti-democratic impulse by passing ranked voting, and guaranteeing not only a more authentic voting experience, but ensuring that every official is elected by a true majority of the people," said City Council Member Carlos Menchaca.

"Instant runoff voting provides an opportunity to increase democracy and eliminate expensive, low turnout elections. Thank you to Council Member Brad Lander and Common Cause for their effort," said Council Member Keith Powers.

"Today I joined my colleagues and good-government advocates in support of Ranked Choice Voting," said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. "New York City is a bastion of progressive and innovative policy, yet our current antiquated voter laws say otherwise-just look at our current Public Advocate race which has the potential to see up to four separate elections in a single year. It is time for New York City to follow the lead of numerous other localities by implementing Ranked Choice Voting for more streamlined, competitive, and cost effective elections."