November 5, 2019 will be remembered as a watershed moment for democracy reform.
That’s because, on this day, voters in New York City approved a ranked choice voting ballot measure that will singlehandedly triple the amount of American residents who experience RCV elections—from 4,079,563 to 12,494,298 in 20 jurisdictions. For perspective, just 18 years ago, Cambridge, Massachusetts was the only city in the entire country using RCV.
The overwhelming success of NYC’s RCV ballot measure, which passed by a nearly 3:1 margin, would not have been possible without the tireless efforts of a broad coalition of activists and good government advocates. Organized under an umbrella organization, titled Rank the Vote NYC, this ideologically, ethnically, and racially diverse association of activists—including Republican city councilman Eric Ulrich, Democratic NYC Public Advocate Jumaane Williams, Congresspeople Hakeem Jeffries, Nydia Velazquez, and Jerry Nadler, NY attorney general Letitia James, and groups like Common Cause NY, the NYC League of Women Voters, Represent.Us, and FairVote—fought to educate voters and get RCV passed in NYC.
RCV, which is set to be enacted in 2021 in NYC’s primaries and special elections, will encourage candidates to engage with more voters, eliminate the ‘spoiler effect,’ and, by replacing runoff elections, bolster the city’s historically anemic turnout.
However, on a day when a record 11 cities held RCV elections, New York was not the only municipality to expand RCV. Easthampton, Massachusetts also voted to adopt RCV in its mayoral elections—joining its Bay State counterparts of Amherst and Cambridge in enhancing its democracy.
New York City and Easthampton join Minneapolis, Minnesota (425,403 residents), San Francisco, California (805,235 residents), and the state of Maine (1,338,404 residents)—among other notable locations—in giving its voters more voice and choice in its elections.
While 2019 was undoubtedly a spectacular year for RCV, 2020 might shape up to be even better. That’s because RCV may be put to statewide referenda in Massachusetts and Alaska, will feature in four major presidential primaries (in Hawaii, Kansas, Wyoming and Alaska), and will be used in the presidential general election in Maine.
It is clear that RCV is gaining momentum. Let’s keep it going, and in the process, fight for a better democracy.