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The Impact of Ranked-Choice Voting in NYC

Robert Dimuro

Posted on November 16, 2019 18:16

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The outcome in a ranked-choice system is not only more reflective of who the majority of voters support but also more informative about what the people want in their candidate so that they can be better represented by their elected officials.

Although voter turnout was abysmal in NYC this year, important ballot proposals were approved that addressed voting, corruption, and budget concerns. The most impactful was the implementation of ranked-choice voting, which will take effect in 2021.

Instead of elections being decided by whoever receives a plurality of votes, ranked-choice voting ensures that the majority of the electorate supports a nominee by having voters rank the candidates on the ballot from their first choice to their last choice. After the first round of counting, if no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the least amount of first-choice votes is eliminated, and voters who ranked that candidate as their first choice have their vote transferred to their next choice. This process repeats until one candidate reaches a majority of votes and is declared the winner.

Ranked-choice voting can have a drastic effect on the outcome of an election. For example, a polarizing candidate who has a strong base of support but isn’t generally well-liked may receive many first-choice votes but few second- or third-choice votes, leaving the possibility that a likeable outsider who received many more second- or third-choice votes can still win.

 

Based on this scenario, it’s plausible that Trump may not have cruised through the 2016 Republican primaries if each state had implemented ranked-choice voting. Since Trump only won a plurality votes in many states and wasn’t very likeable outside his base, Trump may not have won the nomination or may have needed to adopt a more inclusive and less divisive strategy in order to do so.

Dissenters of ranked-choice voting are the usual suspects. Party establishment stands to lose the most from this system, as it’s more difficult to push through the Party favorites if they need a majority and not just a plurality of support. Leading politicians and incumbents also worry about how to educate less informed and/or ESL voters on a more complicated voting process that could cause many ballots to be improperly cast and thus disqualified.

In a last-ditch effort to kill the proposal, the Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus of the NYC Council campaigned against ranked-choice voting on the basis that it would discriminate against immigrant and minority communities. 

However, the benefits of ranked-choice voting seem to outweigh the drawbacks. People will be empowered to vote their conscience instead of voting for the lesser of two evils. As alluded to earlier, ranked-choice voting would also discourage the toxic strategy of negative campaigning. If candidates attempt to earn votes by slandering their opposition, then those candidates aren’t likely to receive many second- or third-choice votes, risking their chance of winning in subsequent rounds of counting.

Hopefully, ranked-choice voting in NYC will serve as a successful template to be adopted by New York State and, eventually, the entire nation as a fairer and more democratic alternative to the status quo.

Robert Dimuro

Posted on November 16, 2019 18:16

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A Maine judge is ordering the state to implement ranked-choice voting for June primary elections.

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