Voters in New York City decided Tuesday to amend the city’s constitution by changing primary and special elections so that they operate under a new ranked-choice voting system, designed to give voters the opportunity to rank their top five candidates on the ballot according to their preference.
Both U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, (D-N.Y) and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, who is a businessman and NYC resident, support the change. Yang said that the new system would allow voters to cast ballots for third parties and choose the candidates they really prefer rather than strategically voting for the Republican or Democrat candidate.
“Just voted here in New York – Ranked Choice Voting is on the ballot!” Yang wrote on his social media account on Tuesday. “Ranked-choice voting would let us express our true preferences and make our politics more dynamic and responsive. We should make it the norm throughout the country.”
Ocasio-Cortez attempted to encourage voters to get out to the polls via her social media account, “This year we have 5 ballot proposals, including one on RANKED CHOICE VOTING which is pretty cool.”
The ranked-choice voting system allows voters to rank up to five candidates on the ballot. Voters would not be forced to rank every candidate and they still have the option to choose only one if they want. The candidate who receives a majority of first-choice votes would be declared the winner of the election.
If there is no majority winner, the candidate who came in last place would be eliminated. Anyone who chose that candidate for their number one top choice would have their vote transferred to their second choice. This process would repeat until only two candidates remain with the candidate who earned the most votes being the winner.
The new ballot structure currently eliminates New York’s traditional citywide runoff elections. If no candidate earns at least 40 percent of the vote, NYC will then adopt the new ranked-choice system in primary and special elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and city council beginning in January 2021.
According to Politico, ranked-choice voting has sometimes resulted in less than scrupulous campaign tactics, so it’s no wonder why it is so popular for the underdog candidates. Scenarios such as groups of candidates that have formed alliances against competitors to win second or third-place votes are real. In fact, California Gov. Gavin Newsom, who happens to be a Democrat, even voted against a bill last month that would have allowed more cities and counties to use the system. He said that it caused too much voter confusion.
A report published in August from the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think-tank, indicated that ranked-choice voting could obscure voter choices and devalue individual votes.
“It also disenfranchises voters, because ballots that do not include the two ultimate finalists are cast aside to manufacture a faux majority for the winner,” the report said. “In the end, a voter’s ballot might wind up being cast for the candidate he ranked far below his first choice — a candidate to whom he may have strong political objections and for whom he would not vote in a traditional voting system.”