This news is coming to you from local AM New York journalist Ivan Pereira:
New Yorkers may soon choose their elected officials from a “top 10”-style list. The 2019 City Charter Commission issued its preliminary staff report Tuesday, with recommendations for revisions to the city charter, including changes to the public advocate position, land use, and elections and redistricting.
One of the biggest changes proposed would transition the city’s traditional “plurality” system, in which the candidate with the majority vote is elected — or a runoff is held if a 40 percent majority isn’t met — with Ranked Choice Voting, or RCV.
Under RCV, which is used across Maine and in 11 cities in other states, voters rank the candidates in order of preference and the candidate with the most “number one” rankings, so long as there is a clear majority, wins the election. If there is no clear majority, a process begins in which the candidate with the least number of “number one” rankings is removed from the race. Ballots for that candidate ranked as “number one” are then recast for the next-highest-ranked candidate. The process is repeated until two candidates remain. At that point, the candidate with the most “number one” rankings wins. The commission says RCV could provide voters with a fairer process that helps even the playing field.
With awareness of ranked choice voting (RCV) skyrocketing after successful implementation in Maine, cities and states across the country are weighing potential adoption of the system. Among these, New York City stands out for its sheer size and demographic, political, and cultural significance.
The 2019 New York City Charter Commission, tasked with revising and updating the city’s laws, is considering implementing RCV in citywide municipal elections. If the Charter Commission officially recommends the policy, voters will be able to to vote directly for the initiative on the November ballot. If ratified, New York City would be the largest municipality in America to adopt RCV.
Among the city leaders who have supported RCV are former Public Advocate (and current state Attorney General) Letitia James, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, City Comptroller Scott Stringer, City Council Speaker Corey Johnson, and Council member Brad Lander.
So what is ranked choice voting? According to Democracy Chronicles’ friends at at the nonpartisan nonprofit FairVote, an organization with its headquarters in Takoma Park, Maryland:
Ranked choice voting (RCV) makes democracy more fair and functional. It works in a variety of contexts. It is a simple change that can have a big impact. With ranked choice voting, voters can rank as many candidates as they want in order of choice. Candidates do best when they attract a strong core of first-choice support while also reaching out for second and even third choices.
When used as an “instant runoff” to elect a single candidate like a mayor or a governor, RCV helps elect a candidate that better reflects the support of a majority of voters. When used as a form of fair representation voting to elect more than one candidate like a city council, state legislature or even Congress, RCV helps to more fairly represent the full spectrum of voters.
Other states and localities that have recently seen legislation proposed to make the switch to ranked choice voting include Connecticut, Vermont, New Hampshire, Massachusetts, New Jersey, the city of Baltimore, and at least two cities in Utah.