What is Ranked-Choice Voting

When New York City voters go to the polls for the June 22 primary election, they won’t be casting their vote for one candidate per position, but instead multiple candidates.

Ranked Choice Voting, which was approved by voters in 2019, took effect this year and will be used to elect the Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough Presidents, and City Council members. In the District Attorney primaries in Brooklyn and Manhattan, Ranked Choice Voting will not be used.

Instead of just choosing their favorite candidate, voters will have the option of ranking up to five in order of preference. The candidates for each office will appear in rows on the left side of the ballot, and each column will be labeled first through fifth choice. Voters will indicate a preference next to their top five candidates and have the option of leaving some blank.

This process will not be used in November’s General Election. 

After the polls close, all first-choice votes are counted. If a candidate receives more than 50% of the votes, that candidate wins. If no candidate receives more than 50% of the first-choice votes, the vote moves to round two with the candidate receiving the least number of votes eliminated. If a voter’s first choice candidate is eliminated, that voter’s second-choice vote is counted and added to the candidate’s total. This process continues until one candidate has more than 50% of the vote and a winner is declared.

According to the City’s Campaign Finance Board (CFB), 17 cities and the state of Maine already use Ranked-Choice Voting — as does the Academy Awards. With the process-of-elimination method, the CFB predicts that final results in Ranked Choice elections will not be known until all absentee and military ballots are tallied.

By the June 22 primary, the CFB expects the State Board of Elections will have software to automatically complete the tabulations, which eliminates Board of Election workers having to manually count ballots for races that may go through multiple rounds.

It’s important to remember that in Ranked-Choice Voting, voters cannot rank the same candidate more than once and should be careful not to rank more than one candidate in the same spot. Doing so will invalidate your ballot.

Voters casting ballots in person will be notified by the voting machine once the ballot is scanned if they give multiple candidates the same ranking, or submit a completely blank ballot. If a mistake is detected, voters may ask a poll worker for a new ballot. The voting machine will not let voters know if they skip rankings or rank the same candidate multiple times.

In addition to saving New York City an estimated $20 million for each election cycle that would have required a runoff, research shows the new voting system tends to make campaigns less negative and encourages more women and nonwhite candidates to run. It also means your vote counts, even if your first-choice candidate does not win.

The new voting system also encourages more women and minorities who typically have a more difficult time raising campaign funds, to run for public office, as RCV eliminates the need for any possible and costly run-off elections. 

New York City voters registered with a political party can vote in that party’s primary election on June 22, or during the early voting period of June 12-20. 

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