Voters In Queens Special Election Will Be First To Use City’s New Ranked Choice Voting System


NEW YORK When voters in Eastern Queens go to the polls next week, they will be the first to use a totally new system of choosing candidates.

Advocates say it could revolutionize New York City’s normally combative elections, CBS2’s Marcia Kramer reported Thursday.

“It will not be this trash and burn strategy that we’ve seen all over elections in the last decade,” said Esther Fuchs, a professor of political science at Columbia University.

Fuchs is referring to the city’s new ranked choice voting system – also known as instant runoff voting – that will be used in special elections and primaries this year.

A special election in Eastern Queens next week will be the litmus test of the new system ahead of the packed June primaries for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, borough president and city council.

Clearly, it’s not going to turn every candidate into Mr. Nice Guy – there will still be negative opposition research. But experts say it will change things because the system depends on forming coalitions.

“If you know, when you’re running a race, that you really need somebody to rank you second in order to win, you’re not going to go out and trash candidates so readily,” Fuchs said.

The way it works is simple. Voters pick their top five choices in order of preference. If no one gets 50%, the race goes to round two.

A board of elections video explains what happens next: “If your first choice candidate does not win and they’re eliminated, we then count your second choice vote and add it to the candidate’s total. The process continues until we have a winner.”

A polling place at Queens Borough Hall is all set for ranked choice voting. Posters explain the new process and there are direction cards in several languages.

But business has been slow. Since Saturday, only about 122 voters participated. And among those who have yet to cast ballots, not everyone is going to go the “pick five” route and use ranked choice voting.

“No, I don’t think I’m going to use it this time,” said John Breton of Briarwood. “Most of the people, I don’t know.”

“I’ve never heard of it,” said Erin O’Brien of Forest Hills.

“I’ve worked as a poll worker before and I can tell you people get very confused with normal ballots. So, I’m guessing there’s going to be a good amount of confusion this time around, but I think in the long run it will be a good thing,” said Matt Farrell of Forest Hills.

Election officials hope to get all the kinks out before the primetime primaries in June.

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