Reformers Blast Assembly Elections Committee: "Focus on Fixing the BOE, Not RCV!"

77% of New Yorkers want Ranked Choice Voting in future local elections, 83% of voters ranked at least two candidates, and 95% of voters found their ballot simple to complete

NEW YORK, NY (07/19/2021) (readMedia)-- Today, the NYS Assembly held a hearing about Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in an attempt to deflect from the actual problem with local elections: the patronage driven Board of Elections. In response, a group of newly elected council candidates rallied with long-time reform groups, and leading voices in the NYS Legislature which has the power to restructure the BOE.

Council Candidates Crystal Hudson, Chi Osse and Tiffany Caban, 21 in '21, Brooklyn Voters Alliance, Citizens Union and New Kings Democrats joined with Rank the Vote NYC to defend the public's chosen system of elections, and refocus the discussion on reforming the BOE. New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted for ranked choice voting in 2019 and loved using this year. Common Cause/NY has been calling for an overhaul of the BOE for decades.

Read Common Cause NY's testimony from the hearing here, as well as Rank the Vote's. Watch the press conference here.

"The results are in: voters love Ranked Choice Voting with 77% eager to use it in future local elections. 83% of voters ranked at least two candidates, and 95% of voters found the ballot simple to complete. RCV has helped bring critical representation in our city, with a majority female city council and second Black mayor. We won't let anyone take away the people's voice and go back to the old system where costly, low-turn out run-off elections actually disenfranchised people. Instead of attacking RCV, lawmakers need to use their power to fix the BOE," said Debbie Louis, lead organizer at Rank the Vote NYC.

RCV, which allows voters to rank their top five candidates, delivered on its promise to elect more women and BIPOC lawmakers. By eliminating vote splitting and incentivizing positive, substance-based campaigns, ranked choice voting gave us:

  • New York's first Mayor elected with majority consensus, Eric Adams, and will be the city's second-ever Black mayor.
  • The history-making top three finishers in the mayoral race included two people of color and two women. For the first time, a woman came within striking distance of City Hall.

Several historic gains were made in City Council elections:

  • 30 women are leading their races for City Council seats, and 86% of them are women of color. This is a HUGE leap from the previous record - in 2009, 18 women served in the Council.
  • There will be 6 openly LGBTQ members of the Council
  • And at least six foreign-born New Yorkers on the Council
  • Crystal Hudson and Kristin Richardson Jordan will be the first out queer Black women on the City Council; Chi Osse, at 23, will be the youngest-ever Council member; Shahana Hanif will be the first Muslim woman and among the first South Asian Council members; Jennifer Gutiérrez will be the first Colombian-American; and Shekar Krishnan will be the first Indian American

Ranked choice voting ensures the winning candidate is elected with majority consensus. In the 2021 primary, it included two candidates who didn't earn the most first choice votes and are projected to win their races for City Council in the Democratic primary:

  • Kristin Richardson Jordan finished behind incumbent Bill Perkins in first choice votes CD 9, but ultimately took the lead after second-fifth choice votes were redistributed. Richardson Jordan will be among the first openly Black queer women on the City Council."[Ranked choice voting] helped our district! It showed the district was ready for a shift. One of the things that makes it hard to go up against an incumbent is that you often see the vote split, splinter off, in a race with so many candidates. So here what ranked choice voting allowed to happen was for people to support multiple challengers and consolidate that power. That made all the difference in this race," she told The Nation.
  • Shekar Krishnan finished behind Yi Andy Chen in first choice votes, but overtook him during RCV rounds. Krishnan will be the first Indian American Council Member.

And most importantly: Voters loved it.

Exit polling conducted by Edison Research during early voting and on Election Day confirmed the enthusiasm:

  • New Yorkers embraced Ranked Choice Voting at the ballot box.
    • 83% of voters ranked at least two candidates on their ballots in the mayoral primary. The majority of those who opted not to rank did so because they only had one preferred candidate.
    • 72% of voters ranked three or more candidates.
    • 42% of voters maximized their newfound power and ranked five candidates.
  • New Yorkers found Ranked Choice Voting easy to use.
    • 95% of voters found their ballot simple to complete.
    • 78% of New Yorkers said they understood Ranked Choice Voting extremely or very well.
  • New Yorkers want Ranked Choice Voting in future elections.
    • 77% of New Yorkers want Ranked Choice Voting in future local elections.
  • There was little variability between ethnic groups' understanding of ranked choice voting:
    • 77% of Black voters said they understood ranked choice voting
    • 80% of Hispanic voters said they understood ranked choice voting
    • 77% of Asian voters said they understood ranked choice voting
    • 81% of white voters said they understood ranked choice voting
  • New Yorkers across ethnic groups found their ballots simple to complete:
    • 93% of Black voters found their ballot simple to complete.
    • 95% of Hispanic voters found their ballot simple to complete.
    • 97% of Asian voters found their ballot simple to complete
    • 95% of white voters found their ballot simple to complete.

"This was a historic election in New York City, and ranked choice voting played a key role in delivering an incredibly diverse slate of city leaders. Under this new system, we elected a record number of women and I am excited to become one of the first gay Black women on the Council. Attacks on RCV are shortsighted and don't address the real issues in our elections -- a lack of transparency and accountability with the way the Board of Elections operates. As we look to further improve New York's democratic process, reforming the Board of Elections must be a top priority for the State Legislature," said Crystal Hudson, democratic nominee for City Council District 35.

"The BOE struggling to carry out its basic duties is nothing new. What is new in this city, however, is a class of district-, borough-, and city-wide officials, elected with the mandate of a majority - rather than a plurality - of votes. We simultaneously avoided costly, low-turnout runoffs and guaranteed that our electeds truly represent us and that all voices are heard. We have some real housekeeping to do at the Board of Elections; there's a lot we need to fix or replace. But if there's one thing we know we must keep, it's ranked choice voting," said Chi Ossé, Democratic nominee for City Council District 36.

"In 2019, New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted in favor of the implementation of Ranked Choice Voting because of its potential to avoid costly run off elections, produce a more diverse field, and incentivize campaigns to appeal to broader constituencies. In its inaugural use, RCV has delivered on all of those points: under this new system of voting, we elected a City Council that will be made up of majority women, our second black Mayor, our first black Bronx Borough President, and our first Latino Brooklyn Borough President. I look forward to continuing to educate voters about RCV. I will also continue to advocate for top-to-bottom reform of the BOE, an imperative measure to increase voter rights and access to the ballot box," said Council Member Antonio Reynoso.

"The results from last month's election speak for themselves. Not only did voters understand and easily navigate Ranked Choice Voting, but it helped increase voter turnout, led to a more diverse pool of candidates, helped elect more women and people of color, and gave more voters a say in who will run our city for the next four years. While this election showcased the positive impact of Ranked Choice Voting, it also illustrated the urgent need for Board of Elections reform. We call on the Legislature to take steps to create an independent agency that is accountable to voters, not political bosses,"said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director of Citizens Union.

"The 21 in '21 theory of change for electing women leans-in to Rank Choice Voting. This is not a zero sum game. We used a Rank Choice Voting Strategy in our endorsement process to elevate all of our candidates. Our mission is and continues to be to provide all of our members running for office with training, networking, and concrete tools so that they can work collectively to get a woman elected in their districts. Ranked choice is a critical part of that work and was a key factor in creating the new majority," said Jessica Haller, Executive Director of 21 in '21.

"After another year of failures, we need action from our party officials, City Council members, and state legislators to fix the Board of Elections. Amending the state constitution is necessary, but it will take several years. In the meantime the county parties must do a better job staffing the BOE with qualified professionals, and the city council must do a better job vetting appointees. The problems at the BOE started before ranked choice voting, and we need to address those systemic problems now," said Mariana Alexander, President of New Kings Democrats.

"Voters should pick the winners of any election, the winners should not pick their voters. Ranked Choice Voting places that power more fully in voters hands," said Julie Kerr, Executive Committee member of Brooklyn Voters Alliance. "The June primary was a success for NYC's inaugural Ranked Choice Voting election. The debacle of the Board of Elections initial release of the RCV rounds was not caused by Ranked Choice Voting. It did not affect or change the outcome of the election nor affect voters' access to the ballot.. It does show the ongoing need for reform of our election administration process. That crucial reform needs to center voters and what makes it easier for them to vote."

"We at the LWVNYC believe that RCV has been a success. It encouraged broad participation in the electoral process throughout the city, and was easily understood by voters who appreciated not having to select just ONE candidate in contests that featured a dozen or more," said Executive Director Kate Doran at the League of Women Voters NYC.