Women Candidates to Council: Don't Delay Ranked Choice Voting, Start Education Today
NEW YORK, NY (12/14/2020) (readMedia)-- Today, 23 women candidates for New York City Council wrote an open letter in support of Ranked Choice Voting, arguing that it will help elect more women -- women of color in particular -- by eliminating the spoiler effect and decreasing negative attacks.
"Rather than seeking to delay ranked choice voting, we need the Council to pass Intro 1994 which would fund and mandate a full voter education campaign. The Council has the power to make sure its stated goals of educating voters are fulfilled. Use it. As candidates, we also understand that we have a responsibility, alongside city agencies, to educate the voters and we don't shy from that opportunity."
Full letter below:
To New York City Council Members:
We are a group of women from all over the five boroughs, different backgrounds, races, and ages. Many of us are first time candidates -- and we're not your typical kind either. We are mothers, carpenters, chiefs of staff, teachers, public defenders, and nurses. And with the adoption of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) in New York City, we're hoping we can add City Councilmember to that list.
Last November, New Yorkers overwhelmingly voted to pass Ranked Choice Voting (RCV): a necessary reform that gives voters the option to rank their top five candidates in local elections. Voters can still vote for one person if they'd like. This was great news for voters, but also for us as we contemplated a run in 2021.
As you're well aware, there are currently 13 women serving on the 51 person New York City Council: that's 25% when we're 50% of the population. Due to term limits, only 6 are eligible to run for re-election. Underrepresentation is a direct result of our current winner take all system. Not only will RCV help ensure the New York City Council reflects the diversity of our city, but is a winning campaign strategy for us.
The Campaign Finance Board estimates an average of 12 candidates will run for each of the roughly 35 open City Council seats, and for some of our races there are already six or seven candidates. A crowded field can often deter multiple women of color from running because of the spoiler effect, meaning one candidate could "steal" votes from another candidate. But RCV eliminates the spoiler effect allowing multiple women of color to run without undercutting each other. According to a study done by FairVote, 11 California cities that use alternative vote systems, like RCV, saw an increase from 17.2% to 25.6% in candidates of color running for office.
And it's not just that more of us run, more of us win. According to a study done by Represent Women in 2016, people of color held 13 of the 18 seats in San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which is up from eight seats before RCV. Studies also show that RCV can even help reduce the negative campaigning that drives down voter turnout and erodes confidence in the political process. Since we all are trying to be a voter's first, second or third choice, negative attacks won't cut it. This is transformative for women candidates like us who disproportionately experience sexist attacks compared to male candidates. RCV forces all candidates to campaign on ideas and policy agendas -- not baseless attacks.
Rather than seeking to delay ranked choice voting, we need the Council to pass Intro 1994 which would fund and mandate a full voter education campaign. The Council has the power to make sure its stated goals of educating voters are fulfilled. Use it. As candidates, we also understand that we have a responsibility, alongside city agencies, to educate the voters and we don't shy from that opportunity.
RCV is the future. We can't wait to empower voters, and use it to run, and win, in New York City.
Gi Gi Li
RCV allows voters the opportunity to either rank 5 candidates in order of preference or vote for just one like they always have. If no one wins with a majority (more than 50%), 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.
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.