Ranked Choice Voting + the Race For City Council in District 24
Candidates agree new voting method gives voters more choices
NEW YORK, NY (01/15/2021) (readMedia)-- Wednesday night, Common Cause/NY, Rank the Vote NYC, the Queens Daily Eagle, Disability Rights NY and the Northeast Queens Chapter of the NAACP hosted a virtual forum on ranked choice voting (RCV) and the race for City Council in District 24. The event was moderated by David Brand, managing editor at the Queens Daily Eagle, and Aditi Lamba, producer and anchor at ITV Gold. Six candidates participated, including Moumita Ahmed, Deepti Sharma, Dilip Nath, Soma Syed, James Gennaro and Neeta Jain. Early voting in Council District 24 begins Saturday, January 23 and will be the first election in New York City to use ranked choice voting.
The candidates were asked specifically how RCV minimizes the "spoiler effect," which occurs when multiple candidates of a shared background run against each other and cancel each other out:
"A lot of people are concerned - when we speak to election officers or people in the community, they say, 'Oh no, a lot of South Asians are running, we don't know what to do.' It's human nature, and we're trying hard to not split votes. It's still going to happen but we are trying to minimize it as we are talking to people about it. I have done a seminar on RCV with my team, and I'm planning another one, and anywhere we go and we tell them, 'It's not that so many people of this or that ethnicity are running, but now you have more choices. You can pick and choose,'" said Dr. Neeta Jain.
"I think that the whole idea of Ranked Choice Voting is to turn the splitting phenomenon on its head. Somebody runs for office and she or he has a certain band of supporters, and through Ranked Choice Voting, people of a similar ethnic or racial group will combine votes to create essentially a possible 'super candidate,' so to speak, so it really does turn it on its head, and that's the good thing about it," said Jim Gennaro.
"We have to obviously acknowledge it, but at the end of the day, we are educating during our voter outreach on the issues, and that's the most important thing. It's not about who I am as an individual, but what do I bring to the table. Diversity is always extremely important, race, gender, ethnicity is all extremely important, because guess what? This district has never had a mother; this district has never had a woman; this district has never had a person of color; this district has also never had a small business owner, and I am all of those things," said Deepti Sharma.
The candidates were also asked how they plan to rank their own ballots:
"Obviously I'm voting for myself first, but I have four additional choices. One of my most important issues is housing justice as the only renter running, and so far only Deepti Sharma put forth a plan as detailed as mine, and we were both endorsed by the Jewish Vote, so she will get one of my votes. But as a community organizer and fellow Bangladeshi and Founder of Queens Mutual Aid Network, I really appreciate how hard Dilip Nath has worked through NAVA USA, so he will also get one of my votes. And I appreciate that Neeta Jain also supports taxing the rich, so she will also get one of my votes. I'm still debating on all five, but I want to make sure our voters know that at the end of the day people do have choices, and who those choices are, and I think for all of us as candidates, if we can't even decide ourselves who to vote for as a second, how are we going to educate our voters? I'm willing to publicly say these are my top choices," Moumita Ahmed said.
"I have yet to choose formally who my second choice is -- there are more debates coming up and as we get close to early voting and the Election Day, then I'll have a decision. This is what I can say: This is about policy, this is about issues, it's about temperament and about future leadership. We don't want to go back to the past leadership and we don't want to go to future leadership where you have to know what you're getting into, what the City Council needs, what power it has. I'm going to wait, and in the meantime, I'm educating my voters about what Ranked Choice Voting is and what that means to each voter and how they should decide," said Soma Syed.
"This is really pretty straightforward. First and foremost, I'm asking everyone to vote for five of their choice - that's the most important. Don't just vote for one candidates, vote for five candidates. And then my top priority is education, education, education, and my second healthcare. Look for the candidates who are really advocating there. The third is the housing crisis - there are only one or two candidates who are really speaking strongly about housing. Choose that person for one of the choices. And my last person is someone who deeply cares about the community," said Dilip Nath.
David Brand and Aditi Lamba asked the candidates other questions on RCV, including:
- How can RCV serve voters?
- How does the district's diversity influence your campaigning?
- How does RCV influence your campaigning?
RCV allows voters the opportunity to either rank five candidates in order of preference or vote for just one like they always have. If no one wins with a majority (more than 50 percent), the candidate that came in last is defeated and voters' second choice votes get counted and so on until the top vote-getter of the final two is declared the winner. RCV will apply to primaries and special elections for all local offices including City Council, Borough President, Comptroller, Public Advocate and Mayor. Voters overwhelmingly passed RCV in the fall of 2019, with 74 percent of the vote.
A 2018 Common Cause/NY study found that 64 percent of multi-candidate primaries in New York City 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.
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 2019 campaign to bring Ranked Choice Voting to NYC was endorsed by: former Mayor David Dinkins (RIP), Congressman Hakeem Jeffries, Congressman Jerry Nadler, Congresswoman Nydia Velazquez, New York Attorney General Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, State Senator Alessandra Biaggi, State Senator Brad Hoylman, State Senator Robert Jackson, State Senator Brian Kavanagh, State Senator Liz Krueger, State Senator Zellnor Myrie, State Senator Jessica Ramos, State Senator Gustavo Rivera, State Senator Julia Salazar, State Senator James Sanders, Jr., State Senator Luis Sepúlveda, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, Assembly Member Catalina Cruz, Assembly Member Harvey Epstein, Assembly Member Ron Kim, Assembly Member Walter Mosley, Assembly Member Yuh-Line Niou, Assembly Member Linda Rosenthal, Assembly Member David Weprin, Former NYC Mayor David Dinkins, Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Manhattan Borough President Gale A. Brewer, Council Member Costa Constantinides, Council Member Robert Cornegy, Jr., Council Member Rafael Espinal, Council Member Ben Kallos, Council Member Brad Lander, Council Member Stephen Levin, Council Member Mark Levine, Council Member Carlos Menchaca, Council Member Keith Powers, Council Member Antonio Reynoso, Council Member Carlina Rivera, Council Member Ydanis Rodriguez, Council Member Helen Rosenthal, Council Member Paul Vallone, Council Member Jimmy Van Bramer, Zephyr Teachout, Cynthia Nixon, Bishop Orlando Findlayter, and Reverend Dr. Ray Blanchette.