Let's Rank and Roll! Ranked Choice Voting Heads to the Nov Ballot

NYC Charter Revision Commission approves final language for ballot referendum

NEW YORK, NY (07/25/2019) (readMedia)-- Last night, the NYC Charter Revision Commission approved the final ballot language for ranked choice voting which New Yorkers will vote on in November. The initiative will be placed at the top of the ballot, and will read as follows:

This proposal would amend the City Charter to:

Give voters the choice of ranking up to five candidates in primary and special elections for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council beginning in January 2021. If voters still want to choose just one candidate, they can. A candidate who receives a majority of first-choice votes would win. If there is no majority winner, the last place candidate would be eliminated and any voter who had that candidate as their top choice would have their vote transferred to their next choice. This process would repeat until only two candidates remain, and the candidate with the most votes then would be the winner. This proposal would eliminate the separate run-off primary elections for Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller; Extend the time period between the occurrence of a vacancy in an elected City office and when a special election must be held to fill that vacancy.

Special elections would generally be held 80 days after the vacancy occurs, instead of 45 days (for Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough Presidents and Council Members) or 60 days (for Mayor);

and Adjust the timeline of the process for drawing City Council district boundaries so that it is completed before City Council candidates start gathering petition signatures to appear on the ballot for the next primary elections. This process occurs every ten years.

Shall this proposal be adopted?

"New Yorkers deserve elections that lift up our voices, and push candidates to campaign better. Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) is the simple solution that puts power back in the hands of the people where it belongs. That's why Common Cause/NY looks forward to talking to New Yorkers all about the benefits of voting yes on RCV in November," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

Ranked choice voting gives voters the choice of ranking their top five candidates in primary and special elections. If voters still want to vote for just one candidate, they can.

If on election day when all the first-choices are counted a candidate has a majority of the vote (over 50%), then she or he wins. If there's no majority, the last-place candidate is eliminated and that candidate's second choices are redistributed, and so on until there's a winner.

Other cities like San Francisco, Minneapolis and Santa Fe, and countries like Australia and Ireland have implemented ranked choice voting to great success. Kansas Democrats are currently using ranked choice voting to select their presidential nominee.

Most candidates win crowded elections in New York City by campaigning to their base, and fail to get a majority. With ranked choice voting, candidates will be forced to campaign to the broader electorate in the hopes of being ranked second or third. Ranked choice voting helps create consensus candidates with majority support.

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 also launched a website and 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.