What's Next for CD 31 + RCV?

Common Cause/NY urges patience during counting process

NEW YORK, NY (02/24/2021) (readMedia)-- In the special election for Council District 31, none of the nine candidates have yet secured more than 50% of the vote in the unofficial election night results, meaning that ranked choice voting may go into effect after all the ballots are counted. Here's what to expect:

Absentee, affidavit and military ballots will start to be counted on March 1st. If no candidate has secured 50 percent of the vote, rounds are required, and the process of round by round tabulation could begin on March 10th. Votes are redistributed round by round until a candidate emerges with more than 50 percent of the vote as required to win under RCV.

"As with every race, voters in Council District 31 should be prepared to wait for results, due to the requirement in state law that provides a waiting period for the receipt of military and absentee ballots. Once those are counted, if there is still no majority winner, the Board of Elections will begin the ballot redistribution by hand, based on each voter's candidate ranking to officially determine the winner.. Queens voters should expect accurate and fair results, and remain patient as the Board of Elections takes meticulous care to follow the law in declaring a winner," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.

Although there is safe and secure software to tabulate the rounds electronically, the NYC Board of Elections is still awaiting approval from the State to use it. As a result, the Board will count rounds by hand to officially certify the results while using the tabulator in tandem.

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 eliminated and voters' second choice votes get counted and so on until there's a majority 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% 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 SepĂșlveda, 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.