“Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) improves democratic participation for three reasons. First, it feels ethical and principled; second; it reduces conflict through majority rule by supporting more choice. Third, RCV supports a politics of joy and civil argument.  Finally, in a society that tends to leave the critical things unsaid, RCV is cheaper. It avoids the cost of close race run-offs and recounts. The second and third picks of voters remain choices and get used if none of the candidates get to the 50+% threshold. Democracies require consensus to function, and that means we can make choices on issues and for people to which we can agree to some extent. Ranking your options is a step in that direction.”

Rex L. Curry

Two party systems should become more sophisticated than a thumbs up or down decision with obvious limits in our ability to choose leaders. The ranking alternative not only expands the values inherent to voting; it encourages and builds new practices in leadership and encourages people who want to lead to find their way in politics. We should also never forget an idea in the United States Constitution that says we have to work for a perfect union. To this end, the popularity of RCV is significant. Given Maine’s experience presents one difficulty. The possibility of litigation and its cost. If there is pivot point to watch, that will be it.

Watching and reviewing the Maine experience will be useful in this regard as the practice is now settled law. With this precedent, it is the first state to use RCV, and the lessons here have been rewarding.  I would refer you to three articles presented in chronological order to illustrate the path taken, the questions asked and the lawsuits filed to get it done. The first article examines the prospect and examines its impact, the second article reviews the litigation on this legislation over the next year or two, and third, the actual practice of voting in Maine today as described by the League of Women Voters.  Praise the victories of suffrage. 

  1. Ranked Choice Voting: What’s in it for you? August 2016 (here)
  2. Maine’s Ranked-Choice Voting Experiment Continues November 2018 (here)
  3. How Does Ranked Voting Work (Main LWV website) (here) also see (cool video)

Imagining a similar process for the voters of New York City as a creature of New York State is a daunting one, but this is one of those “fix-it-even-if-it-isn’t broke” ideas worthy of your efforts, sweat and I don’t think I’m nuts, blood for the bank, if necessary. Lowering the cost is the sane approach that calls for “instant run-offs” that takes into account a voters second and third choices. A bill in the New York City Council does that is (here),

Common Cause took up the mantle on RCV (here) and defined the issues as follows: voting as “the lesser of two evils” is part of the political value system and needs to change. Accepting the value of the majority vote win on the other hand is vital, today that is no longer true and that needs to change. The NYC Public Advocate’s win with 33% of the vote is a still win, but politically it can be used as a criticism. Ranked choice solves that problem by confirming the existence of voter confidence. Lastly, the overall downward pressure on the validity of the vote with algorithms allows political power brokers to ignore whole sections of he population and reduces elections to battleground states or neighborhoods.

The opportunity to make this happen is this year because the 2019 Charter Revision Commission is considering the placement of Ranked Choice Voting on the ballot by voters in November. The opportunity to show support will be in Borough hearings- locations and dates are TBA . The Commission’s website was launched 3 April. It is a bit difficult to navigate, but covers the bases well with links from “lists” to sections with more content.

They have two in-depth articles on the subject. The Tipping Point — The Impact of Candidate Field Size on Multi-Candidate Primaries in New York City 4/2019 and A Case for Ranked Choice Voting in New York City, 11/2018

The articles make sense, much of the critical thinking is complete, and it is top on the list of the commission’s voting reform proposals. The Charter Commission offers a look at what this revision of NYC’s voting system would be like:

Note

Let NY Vote that continues to enjoy many successful election reform campaigns At one time they included ranked-choice voting on its list of reforms and then the calendar item went 404 – files not found. (URL here). The priority of getting the vote in the hands of people from whom it has been taken is the current priority. Several political districts in upstate NY get to count the population of their prisons to determine the apportion public office, but this population is not allowed to vote.  If advocating for a ranked choice system of voting in NYC is less of a priority than work that increases voter participation in the process, I recommend attending their events.

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