Ranked choice voting: Everything to know ahead of NYC primary

New York Elections

NEW YORK — After months of education and awareness initiatives, it appears the basics of ranked choice voting are clicking with New York voters. For the first time, New York City elections will use the ranked choice voting method to cast votes for local office.

Early voting in New York City began Saturday ahead of the June primary day on June 22.

What is ranked choice voting?

Ranked choice voting is supposed to encourage more equity and representation in government.

Rank as many or as few candidates as you like:

  • Choose one candidate for each column
  • 1st choice – Pick your favorite candidate
  • 2nd choice – Fill in second column
  • Followed by your 3rd, 4th and 5th choice

If no candidate receives the majority of first-place votes, there is an instant runoff. In each round, the candidate with the lowest number of first-place votes is eliminated and people who voted for them will then have their second-place vote counted. 

Voters slowly understanding ranked choice voting

A PIX11/NewsNation/Emerson College poll released last week showed encouraging signs that voters have begun to understand the new ranked choice voting system, with 64% saying they’ve heard a lot about it and 25% having heard a little about it.

Of those surveyed, 87% said they had a second choice in the mayoral race and 72% had a third choice. Voters were also asked about their fourth and fifth choices. 

How ranked choice voting works

In a PIX11 poll conducted in early May, only 45% of voters had a second choice and 35% of voters had a third.

For the Democratic primary, ranked choice voting and candidate-specific questions, the poll’s sample size was 725, with a margin of error of +/-3.6%. For the general most important issue question, the sample size was 1,162, with a margin of error of +/-2.8%.

What does it have to do with pizza?

Well, nothing.

But with a new way of voting being introduced that’s much more intricate than the old model, officials are doing whatever they can to help get the word out.

Absentee ballots: How some candidates feel about the new voting system

Ahead of New York City’s primary elections, Mayor Bill de Blasio on Thursday demonstrated to New Yorkers how to use ranked choice voting using a topic everyone has an opinion on: pizza toppings.

Using a sample ballot, de Blasio ranked his favorite pizza toppings. 

His No. 1 choice? De Blasio picked green peppers.

“I didn’t even have to question what my No. 1 vote would be,” he said.

He then picked olives, sausage, mushrooms and pepperoni. 

The mayor went on to say what topping should never be voted for, pineapple.

“Pineapple doesn’t belong on pizza,” de Blasio said, “This is sacrilegious in Italy to put pineapple on pizza, so I’m just totally, no way, never going to rank that.”

Clams and vegan cheese also did not make his ballot.

De Blasio wanted all New Yorkers to weigh in on their top pizza toppings.

The winner? De Blasio announced New York City’s favorite pizza topping is pepperoni.

What is an exhausted ballot, and how do I prevent it?

“An exhausted ballot is when everyone you’ve ranked is no longer in the race,” said long-time ranked choice voting advocate Sean Dugar with Rank The Vote NYC.

The goal in any ranked choice voting election is for one candidate to get to 50% of the vote using the rankings.

If you don’t have a second, third, fourth or fifth choice and your candidate is eliminated, your vote is set aside for counting purposes.  For example, during a special election to elect Bronx City Councilman Oswald Feliz, more than one out of every five ballots was not used by the end of counting.

“The more candidates you rank, the more your voice is heard in the process and the longer your ballot works for you,” Dugar said.

Rank The Vote NYC suggests following this formula when ranking:

  • 1st Choice: The candidate you love.
  • 2nd choice: The candidate you like.
  • 3rd or 4th choice: The candidate you like slightly less.
  • 5th choice: The candidate you can stand.

Visit findmypollsite.vote.nyc to find a polling site near you for early voting or Election Day voting. 

For more information on ranked choice voting, the upcoming primary elections and the candidates on the ballot, visit PIX11.com/NewYorkElections.

PIX11’s Dan Mannarino contributed.

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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