New Yorkers, if your mailbox has been stuffed with enough election literature to reverse engineer a tree or you’ve seen Andrew Yang out and about somehow in every borough at once, you’ll know it’s that time of year.
Primary elections are rapidly approaching; early voting begins today and the big day is June 22nd. As your brand new tome of blue and red card stock has dutifully informed you, New York City will be trying out ranked-choice voting this year.
Ranked-choice voting will allow voters to pick a top choice candidate, and then rank up to 4 other candidates for a total of 5 choices. So, instead of picking one candidate and ignoring the rest, New York voters are now burdened with actually having a thought-out opinion on each candidate.
Some might be wondering why we’ve opted to expand the great experiment of democracy with a new style of voting in a time when trust in our electoral system is at an all-time low. The short answer to this question is: we asked for this.
Per a 2019 ballot measure, 73.5% of New York City Voters marked ‘yes’ for ranked-choice voting. This choice was pre-pandemic, pre-capitol siege, pre-Trump deciding he will be reinstated every few months, so changes in the election system might feel a little more tempestuous than they did two years ago.
But, despite the uncertainty, ranked-choice voting might really be a good thing. Ranked-choice voting forces candidates to appeal to a wider portion of the electorate and allows voters to maintain a say in the election even if their first-choice candidate doesn’t win. Essentially, ranked-choice voting aims to produce a winner that is acceptable to the majority of the electorate.
In a regular election, where voters pick only one candidate, this system is only really representative when there are only two choices. It’s been a topic of contention in many primary races, where partisan politics that appeal to a small but passionate base can push a candidate over the threshold despite not appealing to the majority of the electorate.
For example, in this year’s Democratic primary, there are eight top candidates running for mayor. In a normal election, this could mean that the winning candidate might only need to appeal to about 13% of the electorate in order to win. More realistically, they would need to appeal to a still slim number of around 25%.
Primary elections are the perfect time to give the idea a shot, with a plethora of unique candidates, none of whom are likely to come away with a clear majority in a regular election. Ranked-choice voting forces candidates to appeal beyond a partisan base, which is important in a primary election like this one.
So, when getting ready to vote this month, get acquainted with all the candidates in your party’s primary election, familiarize yourself with their policies and platforms, and give some thought to your own ranking.
For more information on ranked-choice voting, visit https://vote.nyc/page/ranked-choice-voting