Ranked-choice voting, overwhelmingly approved by NYC voters, comes under attack in City Council
The city’s handling of ranked-choice voting, the process of listing candidates on a ballot in order of preference instead of picking just one, came under strong criticism from a number of City Council members during a Monday hearing.
Ranked-choice voting could dramatically affect next year’s mayoral primary. The idea behind the method is to compel candidates to make an appeal to the maximum number of voters — not just their base — fundamentally changing the way politicians have to campaign.
But electeds including Councilwoman Laurie Cumbo (D-Brooklyn) said the city doesn’t have enough time and resources to inform voters about the new method — and stands to disenfranchise already disadvantaged communities.
“There is an impossibility to educate people in the amount of time necessary on what ranked-choice voting will mean,” said Cumbo, the Council’s majority leader.
“This is the greatest gross negligence that I have ever seen,” she added, “and I am going to do everything in my power to fight against this with the power of all of my ancestors behind me.”
Still, reps from the city Board of Elections said all systems are go for ranked-choice voting, which debuts Feb. 2 in a special election for the Queens Council seat recently vacated by Rory Lancman.© Bill Sikes Ranked-choice voting could dramatically affect next year’s mayoral primary. The idea behind the method is to compel candidates to make an appeal to the maximum number of voters — not just their base — fundamentally changing the way politicians have to campaign.
Ranked-choice voting could dramatically affect next year’s mayoral primary. The idea behind the method is to compel candidates to make an appeal to the maximum number of voters — not just their base — fundamentally changing the way politicians have to campaign. (Bill Sikes/)
Cumbo and other Council members faulted the city Campaign Finance Board for waiting until the start of 2021 to inform voters about ranked-choice voting. But doing so amid this year’s elections, which used the old method of voting, would have been confusing, said NYCCFB Executive Director Amy Loprest.
The board is planning a $1 million campaign to mail postcards and do other outreach about ranked-choice, which became law through a City Charter amendment passed last year with 74% of the ballot and wholehearted support from good government groups like Common Cause New York.© Provided by New York Daily News City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo
City Council Majority Leader Laurie Cumbo (Mark Woodward/)
Under the new method, if no candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, a process of elimination ensues. The candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is discarded, and people who voted for him or her get their second choices counted instead. The process continues until someone gets more than 50% of the ballot.
Members of the Council’s Black, Latino and Asian Caucus recently called for ranked-choice voting to be delayed, echoing statements from mayoral candidate and Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, whom some of the caucus members endorsed.
But Councilman Antonio Reynoso (D-Brooklyn) took exception to the suggestion that ranked-choice voting was too complicated for some voters.
“People that are politically, currently in the system [want] to maintain the status quo,” he said.
“There’s a misconception that New York City voters … specifically Black and Brown voters, are not intelligent enough to figure out how to do ranked-choice voting. And I take offense to that,” Reynoso added.
Councilman I. Daneek Miller (D-Queens), co-chair of the BLA Caucus, said the group was looking into legislation to put ranked-choice voting on hold.
“There is some question as to whether or not it’s within the authority of the Council,” he told the Daily News. “We’re using all the tools in the toolbox. We feel so strongly about this.”
At the hearing, lawmakers discussed legislation including a bill from Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel (D-Brooklyn) mandating steps for NYCCFB to take to inform New Yorkers about ranked-choice voting.
“It is important we gear up for 2021 and make certain New York City is ready,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson (D-Manhattan) said in a statement. “Ampry-Samuel’s bill sets in motion what must be done to guarantee New Yorkers know all about ranked choice voting, just in time for the upcoming elections.”
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