Concern building as ranked choice voting is rolled out in NYC

New York Elections
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KEW GARDENS, Queens — Big changes are already underway with New York City’s voting system — beginning with a relatively small special election.

The voters of City Council District 24 are currently using “ranked choice voting” in a special election to replace retired Councilman Rory Lancman.

With eight candidates to chose from, voters will choose their top five choices on a ballot that looks like this:

The nonpartisan voting reform group Fair Vote put together a video to explain how ranked choice voting works when no single candidate gets more than 50% of the “first choice” votes.

Essentially, the bottom candidate continues to be eliminated and votes are redistributed based on second and third choices.

The idea behind using this voting method is to give people more say, particularly in crowded primary fields like the big upcoming citywide mayoral primary this June.

But Brownsville Councilwoman Alicka Ampry-Samuel said ranked choice voting has not been well explained, particularly in communities of color. Her bill, passed through city council Thursday, will require election officials to partner with community based organizations and educate the public.

There are also separate concerns about notoriously slow counting by the New York City Board of Elections, and the board’s ability to administer the election properly.

The board will do a hand count and a computerized count of this first ranked choice election. It comes after the board was not able to get on the same page with the state election board to certify its little-known vote counting software from the Ranked Choice Voting Resource Center.

There are three smaller special elections in February and March for everything to be ironed out before the big test in June.

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