Voices & Choices

New Report: In NYC, Ranked Choice Voting Gave Voters More Options & Voters Understood the System

New Report: In NYC, Ranked Choice Voting Gave Voters More Options & Voters Understood the System

Earlier this month, the City University of New York’s Center for Urban Research released a report examining the first use of ranked choice voting (RCV) in the June 2021 primary elections in New York City. The report was commissioned by our great partners at Common Cause New York, as well as the Unite America Institute

This is the latest piece of evidence – along with FairVote’s own in-depth analysis, a Unite America Institute study written by Daemen College professors Erin Carman and Jay Wendland, and the NYC Campaign Finance Board’s Voter Analysis Report – demonstrating RCV’s positive impact on New York City’s 2021 elections. Notably, the Center for Urban Research report concludes that: 

“Voters understood the process and deployed it in ways that reflected their actual preferences. Most of those voters who initially favored candidates who were eliminated in early rounds nevertheless had their votes register for another – albeit less-so – favored candidate at the end.” 

The Center for Urban Research report also includes an extensive qualitative analysis, featuring interviews with candidates and campaign staff on how they ran RCV races: 

Brandon West, Candidate for City Council: “[RCV] made negative seem like not the right thing to do.”

Sandy Nurse, City Council Member: “We weren’t ever going to go negative, but I would say [RCV] definitely reaffirmed our work and approach of we are going to talk to everybody.”

Chris Coffey, Campaign Manager for Andrew Yang: “[RCV] puts more issues on the table, it like broadens the fields. You’re talking to more people because you’re trying to fight for more votes. You’re not just staying in your lane. You’re, like, trying to get second and third place votes in every place.”

While RCV gave candidates “an incentive… to be nicer than usual to their competitors and less likely to go negative,” the researchers also indicated that there’s likely more change to come – with more electoral cycles needed for “candidates and coalition-builders to learn to use the full potentials of the method.” 

New York’s “candidates and coalition-builders” – and voters – will get their next RCV opportunity next year, when all 51 members of the City Council are up for election.

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