Advocates push for ranked-choice voting
by Benjamin Fang
Apr 09, 2019 | 8606 views | 0 0 comments | 315 315 recommendations | email to a friend | print
With the New York City charter now up for review, good government groups are calling for the Charter Revision Commission to implement ranked-choice voting, or RCV.

This voting system, which is used in multiple cities throughout the midwest and west coast, allows voters to rank their candidates in order of preference. This would alter the winner-take-all model that is currently in place.

If one candidate gets a majority of the vote, they are still the winner. But if no candidate wins a majority, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated, and people who voted for that candidate have their votes tallied to the totals of their second choice.

The process continues until one candidate has more than half the votes.

Last Thursday, Common Cause New York and Councilman Antonio Reynoso pushed for RCV at Maria Hernandez Park in Bushwick.

“It tamps down negative advertising and attacks between candidates,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause NY. “It builds a stronger consensus around the ultimate winner.”

Lerner pointed to the recent special election for public advocate of a “good example” of when RCV would have been preferable.

Seventeen candidates ended up on the ballot, but voters were only allowed to select one winner. RCV would have helped voters sort through those candidates and allow the candidates to build stronger coalitions, Lerner said.

Reynoso, meanwhile, said RCV would have been helpful in the 2013 public advocate’s race, where $13 million was spent on a primary runoff alone.

“This is an economic issue that we can handle more wisely in the city,” he said.

According to Reynoso’s office, in the last three election cycles in New York City, 63 percent of multi-candidate primaries were won with less than half of the vote.

Thirty percent won with less than 40 percent of the vote, and nearly one-tenth of those elections were won with less than 30 percent.

“We shouldn’t have half of the electorate upset and half of the electorate happy,” Reynoso said. “There’s a way where we can come to a candidate who’s generally linked by the residents they represent.”

The councilman added that RCV would force candidates to go into areas where they don’t see themselves as frontrunners. They would have to talk to constituents who “have different interests and beliefs” so they could earn a second place vote.

In doing so, Reynoso said, candidates will be more well-rounded and versed on the needs of the entire district.

“So we don’t have pockets in communities that are underserved, ignored or marginalized just because they didn’t agree with that candidate,” he said.

According to one study conducted by FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that advocates for electoral reform, in four cities in the Bay Area that used RCV, candidates of color won 62 percent of those races, compared to just 38 percent prior.

“There’s a lot of positives, and very few negatives to this,” Reynoso said. “I don’t know why anyone would be against this.”

Lerner added that Sante Fe and Minneapolis have already implemented RCV, in addition to the four Bay Area cities. Albuquerque and St. Paul are now considering it as well.

“We think it will be very popular here in New York,” Lerner said. “We think it will have a significant impact for minority candidates.”

A spokesperson for the 2019 NYC Charter Revision Commission said it is considering a variety of proposals, including establishing a ranked-choice voting system for city elections.

The commission will release a preliminary report later this month, hold borough hearings for feedback in late April and May, and aim for final proposals ready in June and July.
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