NEW YORK, NY (07/07/2021) (readMedia)-- Today, Susan Lerner (Common Cause/NY Executive Director), Senator Liz Krueger, Rosemonde Pierre-Louis (COO of NYU McSilver and a member of the Rank the Vote executive board), and Crystal Hudson (Democatic nominee for Council Member for CD 35) held a press call to discuss yesterday's new batch of preliminary election results, BOE dysfunction, and the major gains for women in the City Council.
For the first time, New York City voters ranked their top five candidates for local primaries including Mayor, Borough President, Comptroller, and City Council. And most voters not only took advantage of the new system -- they enjoyed it. According to an exit poll conducted by Edison Research throughout early voting and on Election Day, 95% of voters found their ballot simple to complete, 77% of New Yorkers want Ranked Choice Voting in future local elections and 83% of voters ranked at least two candidates on their ballots in the mayoral primary.
"New Yorkers pulled off the biggest ranked choice voting election in U.S. history, and the results speak for themselves. The campaigns were substance-driven, with multiple candidates of color and women competing in the same races without having to worry about the 'spoiler effect,'" said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY "Voters like ranked choice voting - 74% approved it in 2019, and 77% of New Yorkers want to use ranked choice voting in future elections. The release of yesterday's results was uneventful and accurate, and we look forward to making long needed reforms to the BOE, not RCV."
For the first time, women will make up a majority of the NYC Council. 30 women are currently leading their City Council races, 86% of them women of color. This is due in no small part to ranked choice voting. Ranked choice voting incentivizes positive, issue-based campaigning, and evidence suggests that women are more likely to run in a positive campaign environment without attack ads and with more focus on substance. Also, more women can run for the same seat because ranked choice voting eliminates vote splitting.
"Ranked choice voting is a clear win for our democracy. I am proud to have run a campaign that reached every voter in every part of the 35th District -- from NYCHA tenants to new tenants to longtime homeowners -- and centered a unifying vision rooted in love, respect, and justice for our community -- something RCV allowed me to do. And given RCV's record of lifting up candidates from historically marginalized communities, I knew that I could run for office as my authentic self and unapologetically embrace all parts of my identity. Anyone blaming RCV for the Board of Elections' mistakes last week is detracting from the real issue at hand: we need real action now to reform the BOE," said Crystal Hudson.
"For the first time ever, New York City's government will actually reflect the diversity of our city, thanks to ranked choice voting. RCV results in more wins for candidates of color and women, and the proof is in the results - the number of women serving in the City Council could double, and a huge number of those women are women of color. After Covid-19 made clear all of the ways that women, and especially women of color, are disadvantaged, representation is especially important," said Rosemonde Pierre-Louis.
Rank the Vote NYC distributed over 1 million pieces of informational literature and partnered with over 750 organizations to conduct 500+ trainings for campaigns and voters. Canvassers knocked directly on 55,000 doors in the week before Election Day. Throughout Early Voting and on Election Day, over 100 Election Protection volunteers were stationed at poll sites across the city answering questions about ranked choice voting as well.
Common Cause/NY, and other lawmakers including Senator Liz Krueger and Assembly Member Nily Rozic, have been advocating for an overhaul of the Board of Elections (BOE) for years. In February 2021, CC/NY issued a report outlining recommendations for reform. While some counties perform better than others, there is a desperate need for reform at the state level. The report addresses two distinct and wide-reaching issues:
"As the sponsor of legislation to fundamentally reform the New York City Board of Elections, I know that the latest problems with our elections stem from a Board structure based on patronage rather than professionalism. Anyone who has been following New York's elections has seen variations on this theme for years. Rank-choice voting was not the cause of these problems, incompetence was. In fact ranked choice voting helped increase turnout over the last 2 mayoral races, including the highly competitive 2013 primary. We need to keep the rank-choice system that was approved by an overwhelming majority of voters, while fixing the Board of Elections so it is capable of doing its incredibly important job," said Senator Liz Krueger.
"Time after time, election after election, the New York City Board of Elections has continued to show us its ineptitude. From long lines one year to broken equipment the next to accidentally counting thousands of practice ballots this year - these mistakes are so common that they have come to be expected. New Yorkers need a transparent and reliable board overseeing their elections and ensuring that all voters have access to voting. These continuous mistakes undermine the rights of voters. These issues are solely the responsibility of the BOE, not the fault of Ranked Choice Voting," said Assembly Member Nily Rozic. "It's long past time to reform and professionalize the NYC BOE which is what my legislation A5691/S2662 with Senator Liz Krueger aims to do.
The bill will set qualification requirements and transparent hiring practices as well as setting up increased reporting and accountability measures within the BOE. Our bill provides for clear delineation of the various responsibilities of the commissioners of the BOE, and provides for clear powers, responsibilities, and duties for the co-executive directors. The bill develops a methodology where the co-executive directors can be held accountable through processes designed to remove and appoint co-executive directors. Additionally, the bill creates various training and continuing education requirements for commissioners, co-executive directors, and staff so that all employees and managers have the skills needed to administer elections efficiently, accurately, and that the voting rights of New Yorkers are protected."