This week the New York City Council took a step forward in improving elections by including the adoption of ranked choice voting (RCV)--also known as instant runoff voting--in its legislative agenda for the New York State Legislature. The City Council wrote in favor of legislation proposed by Assemblyman Brian Kavanaugh that would allow New York City to implement RCV for citywide primary elections. Currently, if a candidate does not garner 40% of the vote in the primary, state law requires a primary runoff election in addition to the general election. Implementing RCV in primary elections would eliminate that need while ensuring a consensus winner. See the city council’s full statement below:
“The City Council calls upon the State Legislature to pass legislation that would create an instant runoff voting system for citywide primary elections. The 2013 municipal election cycle contained three election dates: the primary election on September 10th, the runoff election on October 1st, and the general election on November 5th. The runoff election was required under state law, which requires a runoff primary election for a citywide elected office when no candidate for that office receives 40 percent of the vote. Because no Democratic candidate for Public Advocate received more than 40 percent of the vote, a runoff election was held at a cost of $13 million – more than the cumulative budget of the Public Advocate’s office over 4 years. Moreover, the possibility of a runoff election for any office that year led to the use of lever voting machines during the primaries out of concern that the NYC Board of Elections would not have enough turnaround time to use the electronic scanners.
An alternative to this wasteful use of resources would be to institute instant runoff voting, whereby voters rank candidates for office in the order of their preference rather than casting a ballot for a single candidate. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate who receives the fewest votes is eliminated and those ballots are counted as votes for the candidate ranked second. If no candidate has a majority at that point, the process continues until a candidate has a majority of votes. This system would eliminate the need for a separate runoff election and has been endorsed by many good-government groups as more efficient and democratic.”
This statement is the latest development in a longer effort to establish RCV to make New York City elections more efficient, cost-effective, and civil. New York City Councilmember Brad Lander has introduced ranked choice voting legislation several times, and in 2014 more than half of the City Council co-sponsored the bill Lander introduced. In addition to legislative action at the local level, the New York State Senate passed Senate Bill S4586 in 2015, which--had it become law--would have established ranked choice voting in primary elections for mayor, public advocate, and comptroller in the city of New York.
Image Courtesy: Wikimedia Commons