Rank the Vote! Diverse Coalition Kicks-off Campaign for Ranked Choice Voting

PA Jumaane Williams, Maya Wiley, Kathy Wylde, Common Cause/NY, RWDSU, CWA etc…

NEW YORK, NY (09/19/2019) (readMedia)-- On Thursday, dozens of elected officials, nonprofits, unions, and advocates joined together to kick off the campaign for Ranked Choice Voting in New York City. Ranked choice voting (RCV) will be the first ballot question when voters go to the polls on November 5th.

Learn more at rankthevotenyc.org.

Ranked Choice Voting gives voters the option to rank their top five candidates in local New York City primary and special elections. If voters still want to vote for just one candidate, they can. A candidate who collects a majority of the vote, fifty percent plus one, wins. If there's no majority winner, then the last place candidate will be eliminated and the second choice votes for that candidate are redistributed. The process is repeated until there is a majority winner.

"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 is proud to stand with such a broad coalition of New Yorkers fighting for better elections," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

Ranked Choice Voting is already in use in cities like Minneapolis and San Francisco, and has long been the standard in Australia, New Zealand and Ireland. In 2020 Maine will make history as the first state to use RCV in their presidential primary after first implementing RCV in 2016.

In 2021, 70% of the City Council will be term limited, as well as all five borough presidents, Comptroller Scott Stringer and Mayor Bill de Blasio. The Campaign Finance Board predicts that at least 500 candidates will be competing for open seats, meaning up to 12 candidates vying for each City Council seat. A 2018 study found that 64 percent of multi-candidate primaries were won with less than 50 percent of the vote, and not a single race with 4 or more candidates produced a majority winner. Candidates elected through Ranked Choice Voting will always win with a majority of the vote.

"Ranked Choice Voting is an efficient and effective way New York City can improve its outdated election laws, help end voter suppression and save taxpayer dollars," said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. "As this campaign launches today, I proudly support the initiative and will push for its implementation. It's time to Rank the Vote!"

"Preserving our democracy depends on protecting the concept of majority rule. Ranked choice voting will help ensure that minority interests do not dominate our local elections," said Kathy Wylde, President of the Partnership for New York City.

The Democracy Fund surveyed voters from ten cities, three where Ranked Choice Voting is in use and seven where it is not. The two year study found that voters in places with Ranked Choice Voting were happier with campaign conduct and experienced less negative campaigning than voters in places that do not use Ranked Choice Voting. A second comparative survey of voters in California in cities that do and do not use Ranked Choice Voting found that a majority supported adopting Ranked Choice Voting to improve election conduct. Other 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 prevents the "spoiler effect," and encourages coalition building.

"The most diverse city should have the fairest and most efficient system of voting in the country. Rank choice voting gets New York City one giant step closer to ensuring real opportunities for candidates from all over the city, including communities of color, to win public office. And it builds in more incentives for all candidates to seek out all of our votes. No one should be taking us for granted. I support rank choice voting because it helps under-represented New Yorkers get the attention they deserve!" said Maya Wiley, New School Senior Vice President for Social Justice.

Assemblymember Ron Kim said, "I am a strong proponent of Ranked Choice Voting and urge New Yorkers to join us in supporting this ballot measure. It has the potential to make our democracy stronger, fairer, and more inclusive for all. With its implementation, we can reinforce our natural collaborative tendencies and re-shape how our leaders are chosen and govern. Elections should be focused on building partnerships and putting the full range of our ideas on display. If voters are able to rank multiple candidates by order of preference during elections, those candidates will be more willing to eschew negative campaigning or personal attacks in favor of cooperation and finding common ground. By doing this, we can form coalitions of excited voters truly vested in the election process and ready to help reinvigorate our democracy."

"There's no doubt that New York is in need of electoral reform – and ranked choice voting in New York City must be a key part of it. It would better reflect the voters' wishes, and provide the winner with a broader mandate and more credibility," said Stuart Appelbaum, President of the Retail, Wholesale and Department Store Union (RWDSU).

"New York Communities for Change is proud to support a reform that will force candidates to engage all communities in their districts and give voters more choice. Ranked Choice Voting is needed in New York City so that we can continue to build power and transform our communities," said Jonathan Westin, Executive Director of New York Communities for Change.

"CWA District 1 believes strongly in electing pro-labor, pro-working families candidates. That is why we are actively supporting the push for Ranked Choice Voting in NYC, a major reform that will give voters more choice and a stronger voice in local elections by letting them choose the candidate that most represents them," said Dennis Trainor, Vice President CWA District 1.

"If voters have the opportunity to rank their choices for candidates for public office, on just one election day, we could enhance democracy by ensuring that those elected have a more solid base of support from the people-- and save taxpayer dollars by avoiding expensive runoff elections," said Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer.

"This fall, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to strengthen our democracy by voting to bring Ranked Choice Voting to city elections. As someone who ran for Citywide office and participated in a runoff election, I know from personal experience that Ranked Choice Voting is necessary for New York. Ranked Choice Voting will foster more positive, issue-focused campaigns, give voters more choice, ensure that elected officials are accountable to a broader spectrum of their constituents and avoid costly, time consuming and unnecessary runoff elections. Citizens Union encourages all New Yorkers to vote yes on Question 1 in November," said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director, Citizens Union.

"Democratic government requires elections in which voters feel that their voice has been heard and their interests represented. When candidates win with less than 50% of the vote, the legitimacy of our elections is threatened. Ranked choice voting ensures that winning candidates truly have the backing of a majority of voters, while allowing voters to vote their conscience rather than choosing "the lesser of two evils." It's time for New York City to give our democracy a shot in the arm – it's time for ranked choice voting," said State Senator Liz Krueger.

"Bringing Ranked Choice Voting to New York City is a crucial step towards leveling the playing field for more diverse candidates. If we hope to imagine a truly progressive New York City, we need ranked Choice Voting," said George Albro Founder and Co-Chair of NYPAN.

"Ranked choice voting isa smart, innovative way to give voters more power when they walk into the voting booth. New York City needs this crucial reform in time for the 2021 election. RCV gives voters the opportunity to make their voices heard by not having to choose a lesser of two evils, but voting for who they believe will be best for that seat. It's time for ranked choice voting in our city, and I'll be fighting to make sure we make it the norm," said Assemblymember Walter Mosely.

"NKD has been using RCV for our own internal elections and endorsements for some time now. We really believe it is a more sensible and democratic way to hold local elections, and it's shown to work in other cities, and it will work very well here too," said Brandon West, President of New King Democrats.

"A year ago New Yorkers voted for major change in Albany, and now we have a chance to do the same in New York City with Ranked Choice Voting. Ranked Choice Voting puts power back in the hands of the people, by giving voters more options and elevating new, diverse candidates so that every community has a voice," said State Senators Alessandra Biaggi, Robert Jackson, Zellnor Myrie, Jessica Ramos, and Julia Salazar

"Amplify Her supports Ranked Choice Voting because we know that 2021 presents a unique opportunity to elect new progressive women and we know that because Ranked Choice Voting is the most democratic form of voting, it's the best way for voters' preferences to be truly reflected in the election results," said Sarah Lind, Manhattan Borough Director of AmplifyHer.

"Lowering the barriers to engage in our representative democracy has been the guiding light of Empire State Indivisible's organizing efforts. It is why we fought so hard to engage voters around the state to defeat the IDC and then to elect a true Democratic majority in Albany. And it is why we continue to work so closely with allies to deliver critical voting and campaign finance reforms at the state level. But New York City has the opportunity to go one step further this year by embracing a Ranked Choice Voting system that will uplift and strengthen the voices of everyday New Yorkers while encouraging a diverse set of candidates that seek to represent their full constituency. Now more than ever, we need candidates to embrace the power of organizing, and Ranked Choice Voting creates the right incentives for a healthy and engaged democracy," said Ricky Silver, Empire State Indivisible.

"We are at an inflection point in our democratic experiment where the question must be asked do our leaders represent the many or the few, some of us or all of us. Ranked choice voting will put the power back in the hands of the people, restoring confidence that our elected leaders speak for all of us and reflect our diversity," said Brette McSweeney, President, Eleanor's Legacy.

"Ranked choice voting prioritizes voters in the election process. It's putting the choice back in voters' hands - they get to vote for the candidates they want, rather than gaming out who they think will win. And, under RCV, candidates can no longer neglect any group of voters, which is good for everyone, as their vote must be earned, not taken for granted or ignored. Plus, it saves voters' time - the public gets to know who won quickly & won't have to come back & vote in a costly runoff election. Ranked Choice Voting is good for all of us," said Jan Combopiano, Indivisible Brooklyn.

"Starting on October 26th, New York City voters have a chance to improve how we select our elected officials and create a fairer, more responsive government," said Paul Westrick, Manager of Democracy Policy at The New York Immigration Coalition. "Ranked Choice Voting provides more opportunities for people of color to be viable candidates for office and has proven to improve the diversity of election winners. These ballot proposals will bring meaningful, lasting change to city government and we encourage New Yorkers to vote 'yes'."

"New York City's current voter laws are antiquated and out of line with our reputation as a bastion of progressive and innovative policy," said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. "Our current system calls for a runoff election in citywide races where no candidate receives more than 40% of the vote. Runoffs are exorbitantly expensive, duplicative, and tend to work in favor of established candidates. Ranked choice voting (RCV) allows voters to express their preferences for a variety of candidates by ranking their top five choices. It is time for New York City to follow the lead of numerous other localities by implementing Ranked Choice Voting for more streamlined, competitive, representative and cost effective elections."

"I proudly support the push for Ranked Choice Voting in New York City. It will encourage positive campaigning, prevent costly run-offs, and increase diverse representation in government. Our city is in need of progressive change, and RCV is a step in the right direction in reforming electoral politics," said State Senator Luis Sepulveda.

"The League has been working to see ranked choice voting in new york city elections for many years. It will be a cost saver, and increase the percentage of voters who will vote for candidates," said Catherine Gray, co-president of the League of Women Voters of the City of New York.

"One of the most frequent criticisms from voters is that they too often feel as if they're forced to choose between the lesser of two evils. Fortunately, Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) empowers the electorate to vote their conscience without fear of "wasting" their vote or "acting as a spoiler." RCV is one of the more elegant solutions to an age-old problem, and will undoubtedly make our democratic-republic a little more democratic," said Nathan Rubin – Author, "Boomers To Millennials" and Founder, Millennial Politics.

"At Motivote, we're committed to helping people overcome all the little things that get in the way of voting, like confusing processes and negative campaigns. And we're about making voting more fun, easy and social to increase participation in elections. For both those reasons, we're excited to support this initiative that gives voters more voice and helps people make sense of crowded candidate fields in primary and special elections," said Jess Riegel, CEO & Co-Founder of Motivote.

"New York City is a global leader in innovation and our vibrant civic culture is a model for cities around the country. However, when it comes to voting and elections, our state has been behind," said Zachary Hecht, Policy Director of Tech:NYC. "While the state legislature has passed a number of needed reforms, there is still more to be done. Ranked-choice voting would be an important step towards better and more efficient elections, and we hope the majority of New Yorkers cast their vote for this measure come November."

"Ranked Choice Voting is good for everyone involved in our city elections. It's good for the Board of Election: it makes more efficient use of resources by eliminating the need to hold a runoff in which historically very few voters take part. It's good for the candidates: it disincentivizes negative campaigning tactics/strategies and rewards cooperation among candidates," said David Marangio of Brooklyn Voters Alliance. "Most importantly, it's good for the voter and the whole city: it provides a more meaningful expression of the voter's preferences (or choices) in a single trip to the ballot box."

"Ranked Choice Voting provides an opportunity to increase democracy and eliminate expensive, low turnout elections. This is an opportunity to streamline the democratic process. Thank you to Public Advocate Williams, Council Member Lander, and Common Cause for their effort," said Council Member Keith Powers.

"New York City should adopt Ranked Choice Voting for all citywide elections as soon as possible. This Charter Commission would be improving our democracy, saving our City millions of dollars and making elections better if they recommend Ranked Choice Voting and it is adopted," said Council Member Ben Kallos. "Ranked Choice Voting has been used successfully around the country, 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."

"I'm excited to see that the Charter 2019 NYC Commission is recommending Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) for NYC, which I've been pushing for years!" said Council Member Brad Lander. "It will help make our elections more democratic & inclusive, and eliminate costly low-turnout runoffs. A great proposal to have on the ballot this November, and I'm thankful to Common Cause, my colleagues, and all the organizations who have been pushing for this outcome."


Other cities like San Francisco, Minneapolis and Santa Fe, and countries like Australia and Ireland have implemented ranked choice voting to great success. Maine will use 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 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.