Voices & Choices

Success in biggest city-wide ranked choice voting election in American history

Success in biggest city-wide ranked choice voting election in American history

New York City’s 2021 mayoral primary election was the largest city-wide ranked choice voting (RCV) election in American history. This is an exciting step for the RCV movement and may contribute to national momentum for advancing RCV proposals. 

RCV has been put to the test in cities and states across the U.S., but New York City is the largest jurisdiction in the country to adopt the system. The fact that it was overwhelmingly successful -- with high turnout, relatively civil political discourse, and voters overall finding the system easy to use -- supports the idea that RCV is a viable voting process on large scales. 

A study by FairVote has shown how RCV benefits candidates of color, which was evidenced by the incredibly large and diverse field of candidates in the mayoral race. As progressive candidate Maya Wiley stated, “Ranked-choice voting protects the voice of Black and brown voters. Studies have shown that ranked-choice voting has a positive impact on candidates and voters of color.” 

Rep. Ritchie Torres (D-NY), a longtime advocate of RCV, commented on the ways RCV positively influenced the process and results of the mayoral race. 

“What (RCV) does is make our politics better and more fair, and this mayoral primary is an undeniable example. There are more candidates of color. There's more engagement with voters. There's more campaigning, in more neighborhoods. We are likely to elect the second mayor of color, or the first woman mayor, in our diverse city's 237-year history. And there's no chance that New Yorkers will elect a plurality mayor when a majority of us preferred someone else.” - Rep. Ritchie Torres

With the widespread voter education efforts implemented in New York, and national coverage of the high profile race, public awareness of RCV is increasing; the use of RCV in the most populous city in the U.S. will help voters get used to the system, priming the country for expansion of RCV in other cities, states, and even at the federal level. 

With 799,827 ballots counted, and more absentees to come, RCV has been tested on the largest scale to date. This is a significant step for the RCV movement and may create momentum for the implementation of RCV in many more jurisdictions nationwide. 

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