Rank the Vote NYC Testifies To Charter Review Commission on Success of Ranked Choice Voting

Results of historic 2021 NYC elections shows voters liked and understood ranked choice voting - and want to keep RCV in local elections and beyond; Commission Chair confirmed that the Commission is "not here to repeal proposals that have already been put in place"

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NEW YORK, NY (06/18/2024) (readMedia)-- Yesterday, Rank the Vote NYC Board Member and former speaker of the New York City Council Melissa Mark-Viverito testified before the New York City Charter Review Commission's Government and Election Reform hearing. Her testimony focused on the impact of ranked choice voting (RCV), which was implemented in NYC in 2021 and proved popular among voters. The full testimony, as written, is attached and below.

In her testimony, Mark-Viverito states that, "voters like and understand that [ranked choice voting] allows them to vote their values while supporting multiple candidates that best reflect them." She also highlighted the role that ranked choice voting had in electing more female candidates. In 2021, New York City held the largest ranked choice voting election in the United States. The adoption of RCV helped elect the most diverse City Council in City history, and the first majority female council as well.

In response to testimony from Mark-Viverito and others who highlighted the success of ranked choice voting, Charter Commission Chair Carlo Scissura confirmed that the Commission is "not here to repeal proposals that have already been put in place," citing the successful ballot effort in 2019 to adopt RCV.


New York City's first ranked choice voting election was overwhelmingly successful, and proved popular among voters who said they supported the change for future elections. According to exit polls, 85% said they ranked more than one candidate and a nearly unanimous 94% of voters said they found their ballot simple to complete. 77% of voters, a clear majority, said they want ranked choice voting for future local elections. Support for ranked choice voting was consistent across every ethnic and racial group.

By giving New Yorkers more choice and more voice, ranked choice voting promotes better candidates and campaigns. Unlike a winner-take-all system, candidates must compete for second- and third- choice votes, requiring them to engage with voters beyond their base and rewarding candidates with broader appeal across the electorate. At the same time, ranked choice voting prevents what is commonly referred to as the "spoiler effect," meaning multiple candidates with similar views or backgrounds can run for the same seat without fear of taking away votes and damaging their chances against another candidate. Most importantly, voters can choose candidates who align with them more freely and without fear of wasting their vote.

Ranked choice voting also helped to elect a City Council more reflective of New York's population. In 2021, voters elected a record 31 women to serve on the City Council, more than doubling the number of women who served on the Council in the previous cycle. Voters also elected six foreign-born New Yorkers, the first Muslim woman, and the first Indian American to the Council. For Mayor, ranked choice voting allowed more voters to have a say in the final results, with 85% of New Yorkers ranking one of the top two finishers compared to just 38% who decided the winner under New York's old system.

In 2019, Common Cause New York and other community organizations helped launch Rank the Vote NYC, a campaign to bring Ranked Choice Voting to New York City and educate voters about the role of ranked choice voting each election cycle. Participating groups included the ??African American Clery & Elected Officials, Achievement First Schools, The Black Institute, Bronx NAACP, Brooklyn Community Foundation, Brooklyn Public Library, Center for Law and Social Justice, CHHAYA Community Development Corp., Chinese American Planning Council, Citizens Union, Citymeals on Wheels, Common Cause New York, Community Voices Heard, Dominicanos USA, Educational Alliance, F.Y. Eye, Grow NY, Latino Association of Restaurant and Bars, Minkwon Community Action Center, Mothers on the Move, New York State Restaurant Association, National Supermarkets Association, North East Queens NAACP, New York Communities for Change, New York Immigration Coalition, Northwest Bronx Community and Clergy Coalition, Queens Public Library, United Neighborhood Houses, and YMCA of Greater New York.

Testimony from Melissa Mark-Viverito, Rank the Vote NYC Board Member

Good evening, Commissioners. I'm Melissa Mark-Viverito, co-founder of The New Majority, formerly Speaker of the New York City Council, and the first Latina to hold that position. I'm here today in my capacity as a Board Member for Rank the Vote NYC, a nonprofit organization that was founded in 2019 to bring Ranked Choice Voting to New York City and has been educating voters for the last two election cycles since our landmark win. My testimony also reflects the convergence of my long standing professional and personal interest- electing more women to public office and how Ranked Choice Voting helped get us there.

Charter Revision Commissions are given immense authority to reshape the city's charter, and I look forward to its recommendations. However, I want to be unequivocal- this Commission should not undo the work of its most immediate predecessor and, more importantly, undo the will of an overwhelming majority of voters by attempting to repeal Ranked Choice Voting as it contemplates changes to the Charter.

A lot can be said about New York's elections, and what works and doesn't for everyday New Yorkers. In 2019, voters had the opportunity to reimagine how New York City votes with Ranked Choice Voting. With two election cycles under our belt, it's clear this reform has had a positive impact on voters, elected officials, candidates and, ultimately, contributed to a more representative democracy.

As a former City Councilmember and City Council Speaker, I know what it is like to work in a male-dominated legislative body that does not truly reflect New York City's vibrant communities. When I was first elected to City Council in 2006, there were 16 women in Council with me, by the time I left office there were just 10. That's why in 2017, I co-founded 21 in 21 with the mission of electing 21 women to City Council in 2021. Spoiler alert, and hence the name change, we smashed our goal and are now The New Majority with 31 women – the majority of whom are women of color – with a seat at the table, fighting for their neighbors and communities under the leadership of yet another woman, Speaker Adams, the first Black speaker of the NYC Council.

Ranked Choice Voting was instrumental to our success. Under the old system, too often women were told to wait for our turn or, worse, two women couldn't possibly run in the same election– certainly not two women of color – for fear of "spoiling" the race by dividing the vote. Ranked Choice Voting helped us turn the page on these antiquated and unfair political operating norms. With Ranked Choice Voting, the more women the better! During the 2021 cycle, The New Majority endorsed 74 women in 35 races. That's because gone are the days in which voters could only choose one candidate. Now, voters can rank up to five candidates meaning voters now have more voice and more choice and never have to worry about wasting their vote. With Ranked Choice Voting, you can still vote for your favorite but also have a few backups. And if you don't want to rank, you don't have to.

And it wasn't just candidates who benefitted from Ranked Choice Voting. We had the highest turnout primary election in thirty years. 85% of voters ranked at least two candidates in the Democratic mayoral primary and nearly 50% of voters used all five rankings on their mayoral ballot. And they kept on ranking, 70% of voters ranked at least two candidates in their City Council race.

Voters like and understand that RCV allows them to vote their values while supporting multiple candidates that best reflect them. The nature of RCV also forges better candidates who can not rely on simply turning out their base, but have to campaign to a broad constituency and therefore develop the consensus building skills that are essential to the work of actually governing.

As we prepare for the next local election cycle, Rank the Vote NYC along with its citywide network of community education partners will be on the ground educating voters and making sure every New Yorker is confident and prepared as they head to the polls next June.

Thank you very much for your time.