Pulling Rank

How Ranked-Choice Voting Works

The days of voting for popular local primary and special election candidates just because you think they’re more likely to win may be over. New York City is set to implement the first city-wide ranked choice voting test run for this upcoming primary election on June 22. 

There are an abundant number of pros for this system: more choice, more votes for favorite candidates over less favored but popular ones, less negative campaigns, boosting women and people of color as candidates, and more. But one major hurdle that remains is getting rid of public confusion about what ranked choice voting is and how it works.

How do you vote in a ranked choice voting system? Instead of checking only one candidate on your ballot, you rank your top five in order of preference. Don’t worry— you aren’t voting for multiple people at once. Your vote only counts toward your first choice in the first round of tallying. Also, you don’t have to rank five candidates; you can rank any number of candidates from 1 (meaning you only vote for one candidate) to 5 (or any number in between, if you only want to rank 3 candidates you can.)

In the first tally, if a candidate obtains over 50 percent of votes they win, the contest is over and ranked choice isn’t applied.  However, if the leading candidate doesn’t secure that much of a majority, then the ranked choice process is applied. The candidate with the least number of votes will be eliminated, and voters who chose him or her as their first choice now give the candidates they chose as their second choice their votes. These votes get redistributed for a second round of tallying. This cycle continues until two candidates face off for the final round of tallying, and the one who wins the majority declares victory.

“Ranked Choice voting provides an important opportunity to both enhance diversity among candidates running for office and avoid costly runoff elections,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “By providing voters the option to rank multiple candidates, those running for office can also gain a greater understanding of voter preference when it comes to the types of candidates folks are interested in supporting.”

Dos: Ranking the maximum number of candidates possible is encouraged to ensure best results. Keep in mind that ranked choice voting will only be used in local and special elections. It will not be used in any county, state or federal elections, including November’s general election.

Don’ts: Be sure you don’t rank the same candidate more than once, since it will only count for one vote, or put more than one candidate in the same ranking (e.g. listing both Andrew Yang and Maya Wiley as first choice for mayor), as that will invalidate your ballot.

This new system can be a difficult one to understand, especially in the case of voters with a language barrier. Luckily, this issue has been acknowledged. In order to prevent voter suppression, Mayor Bill de Blasio and DemocracyNYC announced that they will launch a $15 million education campaign about ranked choice voting which will be done in multiple languages across a variety of advertising platforms.

According to the New York Times, the ranked choice voting system has been used in NYC twice this year for special City Council elections, once in Queens and the Bronx. They reported that advocacy group Rank the Vote NYC polled voters following those elections and found that “an overwhelming majority” of them, “found their ballot easy to fill out, and most of them ranked more than one candidate.”

When: The election will take place on June 22 from 6a.m.–9p.m and will cover the positions of mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and City Council. It is open to all eligible New Yorkers registered with a political party.

Early voting will begin on June 12 and run through June 20. Open hours, along with your polling site locations, can be found on the Board of Elections website at https://findmypollsite.vote.nyc   by filling in your address.

The last day to request a mail-in ballot online, by fax, or by mail is June 15 and the last day to request one in person is June 21. Mail-in ballots must be postmarked by Election Day. Go to: www.voting.nyc for applications and more info.

Author: Kassondra Gonzalez

Communications Associate and Contributor of the Greenline.

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