Last Thursday, NYC Votes, the voter outreach and engagement campaign of the New York City Campaign Finance Board, announced the winning design of this year’s “I Voted” sticker contest. NYC Votes conducted an online election to choose the winner using ranked choice voting (RCV). In a tweet, NYC Votes noted that they wanted to showcase ranked choice voting to New Yorkers amid several proposals to use ranked choice voting to eliminate the City’s costly primary runoff elections.
The contest provided an especially good example of RCV’s benefits because there were 10 candidates, and nine rounds were needed to find a majority winner. In the first round, the “Subway” design, which would go on to win, led with just 12% of the nearly 10,000 votes cast. A full 88% of voters preferred another sticker. Even by the eighth round, the field was still relatively split, with the subway design having 37%, and the other two designs having 33% and 30%. In the final round though, the Subway design was able to claim a 55% majority.
Even though using ranked choice voting did not change the outcome that would have occurred using plurality voting, the Subway design’s victory proves the benefits of building broad support. From round one to round nine, the sticker nearly tripled its vote total, from 1243 to 3486. Because the contest only allowed voters to rank three choices, that number is likely lower than if voters could have ranked all 10. Still, nearly two-thirds of voters had a say in the final round, and 13% of supporters of the second place sticker even had the Subway design as their next choice.