MIDDLE VILLAGE, Queens — New York City is finally putting the “rankings” in its new ranked-choice voting system to use, as concern builds that voters of color might be disenfranchised by the changes to voting in the city.
Nobody got 50% of the votes in a special election to pick the next city council member from Far Rockaway. After three weeks of waiting for absentee and military ballots to arrive, the ballots in that race are now being counted by hand and by computer. Preliminary results show Selvena Brooks-Powers with about 38% of the vote and Pesach Osina with about 35%.
The video below from the NYC Board of Elections explains how Ranked-Choice voting works and how a winner will be decided in Queens.
However, the concern is people will not even vote in the first place out of confusion over ranked choice.
A recent PIX 11/NewsNation/Emerson College poll of city voters found 46% of African Americans have heard nothing about ranked-choice voting and 38% of Latinos have heard nothing. Whites fared better, with only 20% unfamiliar with the new voting system.
Still, Susan Lerner, who heads Rank the Vote NYC, is optimistic those numbers will improve.
“What we know is people pay closer attention as elections get closer,” Lerner said.
Rank the Vote surveyed people who have already used the new system in two special elections in Queens. Lerner said 95% survey “found the ranked-choice ballot simple” and 75% of people “were familiar with ranked-choice” before voting on Election Day.
PIX11 News pointed out these positive findings were only a measure of two tiny elections and the people who vote in these kinds of special races tend to be more plugged into politics more than most New Yorkers.
Everyone else will be using the new system for the first time during the all-important June primaries, including the race for Mayor. Lerner insists the city is ramping up education efforts and candidates need to do the same.
“The smart candidates are up to date on ranked-choice voting and taking advantage of the system,” Lerner said.
The BOE and advocacy groups are also promising vote counts will move faster in June because computer tabulators should be in full use. Election officials will also not have to wait as long for absentee and military ballots to arrive before they even begin counting.