On Apr. 11, 2018, New York City approved the creation of the 2019 Charter Revision Commission, which was designed to review the entire Charter and the functions and processes of the City government. Among many of the recommendations made was the implementation of Ranked Choice Voting (RCV). Set to debut in the Feb. 2 city council special election in Queens before being implemented across the city in the June primaries, the shift from first-past-the-post elections, as outlined in the Charter report, would provide many benefits to New York voters.
The first point the Charter expounded upon was how RCV would eliminate the need for a city-wide primary run-off since the run-off process would be simulated as candidates are eliminated. Two benefits of this are that
(1) it saves money on the administrative costs associated with setting up a run-off, and
(2) it solves the problem of reduced voter turnout in run-offs by removing the need for people to show up and vote again.
Additionally, the Charter noted that RCV encourages candidates to campaign in minority communities as well as communities they would have thought unwinnable because they would be compelled to campaign for second and third place votes among the broader electorate. The result is a greater diffusion of ideas that introduces people to candidates they would have otherwise never voted for.
Moreover, the Charter cites that RCV would disincentivize the need for negative campaigning. This is hypothesized to be so because candidates in RCV elections would be encouraged to build broader coalitions of voters and align with opponents who share their same views to garner second - and third-choice votes. The Charter also mentions the coupling of RCV with a robust voter education campaign that utilizes the resources of the BOE, the Campaign Finance Board (CFB), and the Civic Engagement Commission. Surveys have indicated that voters with prior knowledge of RCV were more likely to understand voting instructions. The survey suggests that the information taught in voter education campaigns can carry through to voters’ experiences at the ballot box.
In the age where polarization and less than ideal governance is all too common, RCV would provide a multitude of solutions that not only reinvigorates our democratic ideals, but pushes us towards a better functioning democracy. As a result, New York City joins an ever-growing list of states and localities that have implemented RCV and are on their way to receiving the benefits mentioned above. The implementation of RCV presents a number of questions for candidates and their advisors, but it also presents a number of opportunities for new and diverse candidates to succeed. This likely resulted in a competitive NYC’s mayoral race which includes the likes of Andrew Yang, Raymond McGuire, and Dianne Morales, all of which are minorities who, if elected, would be first-time elected officials.
Photo by Florian Wehde on Unsplash