RCV, Policing, & Elections: NYC PA Jumaane Williams & MN CM Phillipe Cunningham in Conversation

NEW YORK, NY (08/03/2020) (readMedia)-- On Wednesday, New York City Public Advocate Jumaane Williams and Minneapolis Council Member Phillipe Cunningham participated in a panel discussion about elections, representation, policing and ranked choice voting. Lurie Daniel Favors, Interim Executive Director and General Counsel at the Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, moderated. As young, dynamic, Black leaders heading up the policy conversations in their respective cities on policing, Williams and Cunningham covered a range of topics from how ranked choice voting brings more diverse leadership to power, to how representing a broad base has helped Phillipe lead in these times of sweeping change.

WATCH the video here.

Responding to a question about whether he would've won his race without ranked choice voting, Minneapolis CM Phillipe Cunningham said:

"[Ranked Choice Voting] made all of the difference. What happened was I was able to build a broad base of support from diverse groups that make up my community....it was also a conversation starter. There were lots of folks who were like, I'm gonna vote for her again, I don't care who you are. I was like, but listen, we have Ranked Choice Voting so I would love for you to consider me for your number two vote. That gave space for us to have a conversation. And by the end of the conversation, often times, I became the number one vote."

"One of the reasons I am excited about Ranked Choice Voting is because I think it prevents people from catering to just one slice of the population who may tip them over. You now have to talk to everyone so there might have been people whose issues he was talking about were not the main thing they were worried about -- they had other things they were worried about -- but he was able to see there is still a cross section of people who believe in these things even if it's not the number one thing of the top of their head. That's important to be put out, important conversation to be had," added NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams. "We have to educate people about what Ranked Choice Voting is and what it's not. I do believe it'll empower people more because there are the systems that were primarily based to help incumbency protections."

Responding to a question about what community education on Ranked Choice Voting looked like in Minneapolis, CM Phillipe Cunningham said:

"I door knocked the ward six times and in so doing I educated people and walked them through it. I asked, 'have you ever voted ranked choice before? No. what is that? Let me tell you about it'. Getting people excited about and making it a fun new thing. I was able to say you get to really vote for the person that you believe in. the person who most aligns with your values...There is this illusion that it's so complicated. And it's really not. Once I actually went through my first experience of it, which was caucus. I was like, this is actually pretty straight forward."

Responding to a question about how ranked choice voting will affect how candidates adapt their campaigns to address policing, NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams responded:

"They have no choice, they have to talk about it. I am excited about ranked choice voting for that reason. If there was any reason, you cannot avoid these conversations."

Responding to a question about speaking to voters beyond their base, CM Phillipe Cunningham said:

"You can't go too far one way or the other because you're not going to be able to have a conversation which you need to be able to have. You need public discourse in this process. Ranked choice voting does not allow for polarization. It creates more space for nuance and discussion."

"Ranked choice voting is going to push people past the soundbites... And maybe, if Ranked Choice Voting wasn't there [in Minneapolis] the conversation would have been 'look at this council member who has been there forever who wants to protect you with police, and this person is anti-PD' -- that would have been the end of the conversation. I am excited about ranked choice voting and what that's gonna do for the discourse," added NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams.


In November, New York City voters overwhelmingly passed Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) with 70% of the vote. New York City is the now the largest jurisdiction in the United States with Ranked Choice Voting - a system that allows voters to rank their top five candidates. Voters can still vote for one person if they like. Other cities like San Francisco, Minneapolis and Santa Fe, and countries like Australia and Ireland have implemented ranked choice voting to great success.

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 a diverse city like New York the "spoiler effect" is a particular concern among candidates of color. Ranked Choice Voting prevents the "spoiler effect," and encourages coalition building. Surveys conducted in California found major gains for people of color, increasing representation in majority-minority districts by 17 percent, multi-ethnic districts by 24 percent, and white majority districts by 9 percent.

Ranked Choice Voting also saves money by eliminating costly run-off elections, like the 2013 Democratic primary run-off for Public Advocate cost more than $11 million. And voters like it too. A fairvote study found that voters in cities with Ranked Choice Voting were happier with campaign conduct and experienced less negative campaigning than voters in places that do not. When candidates have to compete to be voters second and third choices, it reduces negative campaigning.