The Queens DA Primary: Ranked Choice Voting Edition

Common Cause/NY releases a hypothetical ranked choice voting ballot for Tuesday's election

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NEW YORK, NY (06/24/2019) (readMedia)-- With the Queens County District Attorney Democratic primary one day away, Common Cause/NY released a sample ranked choice voting ballot, which allows voters to rank their top five choices instead of selecting just one.

In June, the New York City Charter Revision Commission voted to put ranked choice voting on the November ballot, for all city offices for primary and special elections. Technically, it would not include the district attorneys because they are part of the state system. This ballot is just a demo to allow voters to imagine how ranked choice voting works.

Here and attached is the ballot.

"Ranked choice voting is a simple reform that will revolutionize the way candidates campaign. In the Queens DA primary, Rory Lancman recently dropped out over a fear of splitting the vote with Melinda Katz in a tight, multi-candidate race. But ranked choice voting encourages candidates to compete for second and third place by eliminating the spoiler effect and building toward consensus," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

Tomorrow, seven candidates will appear on New York State ballot for the Queens County District Attorney Democratic primary. Voters will be asked to select just one candidate in the existing winner take all model of elections. With ranked choice voting, voters would rank their top five preferences for candidates. If on election day when all the first-choices are counted there is one candidate who collects a majority of the vote, that candidate wins. If there's no majority, then the last-place candidate is eliminated and their votes re-allocated according to voter preferences. The process is repeated until there's a majority winner.

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

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 would help create consensus candidates.

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.