How Ranked Choice Voting is Changing the Endorsement Game in NYC Elections

Observers say voters are more likely to rank their own votes and better understand the new system if they get encouragement from the system’s power players, like politicians, news outlets, labor unions and advocacy organizations—in the form of endorsements.

NYC Campaign Finance Board

A sample RCV ballot.

When it comes to elections, New York City has finally changed the rules of the game. Now the question is how many people are ready to play along. 

The new system, Ranked Choice Voting (RCV), gives voters the chance to pick more than one candidate in citywide and local races, potentially enabling someone to win without gaining the most first place votes.

In other cities, RCV has improved turnout, says Jason Salmon, regional director for Citizens Action of New York. “People are more satisfied with their voting since if their first choice doesn’t win they often get someone else they voted for.”

The search for much-needed second and third place votes pushes consensus building and more extensive campaigning, adds Luke Hayes, campaign manager for Rank the Vote, a group formed to help push for this change. “You’ve had council races where a candidate wins a primary with 30percent of the vote because they know they can win big in one section of the district and don’t campaign anywhere else,” Hayes added. “Now they have to engage with more voters.”

This gives outsider candidates a clearer path to victory, which Afua Atta-Mensah, executive director of Community Voices Heard (CVH), says will boost women and people of color, who are chronically underrepresented in the halls of power.

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