Major Takeaways from New York City's First Ranked Choice Election

Diverse winners elected with a strong mandate in New York's highest turnout local election since 1989

NEW YORK, NY (07/14/2021) (readMedia)-- New York's first ranked choice voting election ended smoothly last week, with an uneventful and accurate reporting of the nearly complete final election results. Eric Adams, elected with majority consensus, will be New York's second-ever Black mayor, receiving 404,391 votes (50.4%). He'll take office with a strong mandate, thanks to ranked choice voting. And with over 941,000 ballots cast, turnout was more than double 2017, and the highest New York has seen for a local election since 1989. Under the old system, Mayor De Blasio won in 2013 with only 260,473 votes (40.3%).

Voters had an overwhelmingly positive response, watch the video

Diversity and Representation

Ranked choice voting delivered on its promise - and then some - to elect more women and BIPOC lawmakers. By eliminating vote splitting and incentivizing positive, substance-based campaigns, ranked choice voting gave us:

  • New York's first Mayor elected with majority consensus, Eric Adams, and will be the city's second-ever Black mayor.
  • The history-making top three finishers in the mayoral race included two people of color and two women. For the first time, a woman came within striking distance of City Hall.
  • Several historic gains were made in City Council elections:
    • 30 women are leading their races for City Council seats, and 86% of them are women of color. This is a HUGE leap from the previous record - in 2009, 18 women served in the Council.
    • There will be 6 openly LGBTQ members of the Council
    • And at least six foreign-born New Yorkers on the Council
    • Crystal Hudson and Kristin Richardson Jordan will be the first out queer Black women on the City Council; Chi Osse, at 23, will be the youngest-ever Council member; Shahana Hanif will be the first Muslim woman and among the first South Asian Council members; Jennifer GutiĆ©rrez will be the first Colombian-American; and Shekar Krishnan will be the first Indian American

Majority Consensus

  • Ranked choice voting ensures the winning candidate is elected with majority consensus. This cycle, it includes two candidates who didn't earn the most first choice votes and are projected to win their races for City Council in the Democratic primary:
    • Kristin Richardson Jordan finished behind incumbent Bill Perkins in first choice votes CD 9, but ultimately took the lead after second-fifth choice votes were redistributed. Richardson Jordan will be among the first openly Black queer women on the City Council."[Ranked choice voting] helped our district! It showed the district was ready for a shift. One of the things that makes it hard to go up against an incumbent is that you often see the vote split, splinter off, in a race with so many candidates. So here what ranked choice voting allowed to happen was for people to support multiple challengers and consolidate that power. That made all the difference in this race," she told The Nation.
    • Shekar Krishnan finished behind Yi Andy Chen in first choice votes, but overtook him during RCV rounds. Krishnan will be the first Indian American Council Member.

Exhausted Ballots

There were 140,167 exhausted ballots in the mayoral election, meaning 15% of voters did not rank Eric Adams or Kathryn Garcia. But thanks to ranked choice voting, we have overall higher civic participation than we would with the old system.

  • The most recent run-off was in 2013 for Public Advocate. In that race, 38% of Election Day voters turned out - meaning 38% of voters had a say in the final result.
  • For this year's mayoral election, 85% of voters had a say in the final result. A significant improvement from 38%
  • Plus, $15 million saved by avoiding a run-off.

Board of Elections Reform

The BOE's human error, when they released the preliminary RCV rounds for early and in-person votes, has NOTHING to do with ranked choice voting. It was a clear demonstration of why significant BOE reform has been both a longstanding issue and is urgently needed.

"Long-time opponents of RCV seizing this moment to attack a more democratic system of elections that voters overwhelmingly support are misguided and misleading the public. Many of them are in positions of power to actually affect change at the BOE and reform the structure. But instead, they deflect by pounding away at RCV rather than addressing the problems they've been ignoring and, frankly, benefiting from," said Susan Lerner.

Sen. Liz Krueger and Assm. Nily Rozic introduced a bill that would professionalize the BOE by requiring commissioners to have relevant qualifications, and create new co-executive directors with clearly delineated powers and responsibilities.

How Voters Responded

Voters were overwhelmingly enthusiastic about ranking their votes for the first time:

  • Adele Mayers told the New York Times that she prefers ranked choice voting to the old system, saying that with the old system "I didn't like that it had to be all or nothing."
  • Jeffrey Roth told the Daily News "I think it's great. It's a real positive thing."
  • Zachary Tallman gushed about Ranked Choice Voting, calling it "a breeze" and saying "It's a real luxury to be able to vote for multiple people."
  • And Bryan Pensirikul told The Post "I thought it was intuitive. Everything made sense to me."

Exit polling conducted by Edison Research during early voting and on Election Day confirmed the enthusiasm:

  • New Yorkers embraced Ranked Choice Voting at the ballot box.
    • 83% of voters ranked at least two candidates on their ballots in the mayoral primary. The majority of those who opted not to rank did so because they only had one preferred candidate.
    • 72% of voters ranked three or more candidates.
    • 42% of voters maximized their newfound power and ranked five candidates.
  • New Yorkers found Ranked Choice Voting easy to use.
    • 95% of voters found their ballot simple to complete.
    • 78% of New Yorkers said they understood Ranked Choice Voting extremely or very well.
  • New Yorkers want Ranked Choice Voting in future elections.
    • 77% of New Yorkers want Ranked Choice Voting in future local elections.
  • There was little variability between ethnic groups' understanding of ranked choice voting:
    • 77% of Black voters said they understood ranked choice voting
    • 80% of Hispanic voters said they understood ranked choice voting
    • 77% of Asian voters said they understood ranked choice voting
    • 81% of white voters said they understood ranked choice voting
  • New Yorkers across ethnic groups found their ballots simple to complete:
    • 93% of Black voters found their ballot simple to complete.
    • 95% of Hispanic voters found their ballot simple to complete.
    • 97% of Asian voters found their ballot simple to complete.
    • 95% of white voters found their ballot simple to complete.