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A slice of democracy: de Blasio’s pizza ballot showcasing ranked-choice voting sparks heated debate

Mayor Bill de Blasio ranked his best pizza toppings on Thursday, June 10. (Screenshot of NYC Mayor's press conference)

Second only to the mayoral race, perhaps the most contested ranked-choice voting ballot is now the best pizza toppings in New York City.

Mayor Bill de Blasio unveiled on Thursday the “Rank Your Pizza” ballot, an interactive challenge to educate New Yorkers on how the new ranked-choice voting (RCV) system works ahead of the June 22 primaries.

De Blasio, whose had his fair share of pizza mishaps, sparked yet another heated debate about the city’s favorite food on social media when he filled out his pizza ballot during his daily press conference.

Hizzoner, grasping an oversized ballot and blue marker, began filling in his first choice with a rather surprising candidate: green peppers.

“A lot of people don’t appreciate green peppers enough. I have southern Italian roots, roasted peppers are very big, important part of our life,” de Blasio said. “Number one, in a big way for me.”

He then proceeded to fill in the rest of his pizza ballot with a sprinkle of commentary. His second choice went to olives (“a little controversial”); third was for sausage (“has to be good”); fourth was for mushrooms (“you’re often maligned, misunderstood”); and fifth for pepperoni (“by default”).

As for the rest of the ballot that didn’t garner the mayor’s favor, de Blasio had kind things to say about two of the three choices: vegan cheese and clams.

Pineapple, on the other hand, drew the mayor’s tongue-in-cheek fury. 

“We’re not in California, OK?” de Blasio said, assertively drawing a big x over the pineapple option. “This is sacrilegious in Italy to put pineapple on a pizza. No way, never going to rank that.”

New Yorkers can weigh in on their own pizza ballot at www.nyc.gov/votepizza

“I don’t know what’s going to win, we’re starting this contest, I think this could be an important moment to clarify what New Yorkers really want for the future of pizza in this city,” de Blasio said. “But as you can see, every one of these voters matters.”

The exercise, while humorous, seemingly did what the mayor intended: draw interest in ranked-choice voting, and how it works. By the end of the mayor’s hour-long press conference, more than 1,000 people had already voted for their favorite pizza toppings.

Yet it also commenced a heated online debate about what really belongs on top of a New York pizza.

Some New Yorkers were not just puzzled about the mayor’s personal favorite toppings, but also voiced concerns of the choices they were allotted.

 

New York City Chief Democracy Officer Laura Wood (whose office was responsible for putting the ballot together) said the city has been hard at work with educating individuals on how the new system will work ahead of the consequential primary elections.

Wood briefly explained that RCV can empower New Yorkers “only if enough New Yorkers actually rank multiple candidates.”

Wood went back to the pizza ballot to explain how RCV works.

In a nutshell, RCV allows voters to rank up to five candidates per office. If a candidate receives more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, they win. If no candidate earns more than 50 percent of the first-choice votes, then the votes will be tallied in rounds.

At the end of each round, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated. If the eliminated candidate had been the first choice on a ballot, the vote then transfers to whoever was the second-choice on the ballot.

The process continues until there are two candidates left. The candidate with the most votes is the winner.

By Thursday afternoon, pepperoni was in the lead in the sixth round with 49 percent with mushrooms in second place at 26%, according to preliminary results.

Pineapples were eliminated by the fifth round with only 13%.

“But, if you only pick sausage and sausage gets eliminated, you have no more say in which topping wins. So pick a few toppings that you kind of like … to ensure you don’t wind up with a topping you really don’t like,” Wood said. “If you hate onions, like I personally do, don’t rank onions.”

Wood then revealed that because of her disdain of onions on pizza, she, in fact, left them out of the ballot entirely.

“That is power, Laura,” de Blasio quipped.

The mayor did not answer reporters’ questions about his own personal ranked-choice vote for the real mayoral race.

“I’m going to watch very carefully all of the candidates, and I’m going to make my own decisions personally,” de Blasio said. “Of course I’m going to be voting, I’m going to be doing five candidates and I’m going to think about if, how, when to share my thoughts with the people of New York City, but we’re just not there yet — but we are there on pizza.”

Early voting — for the real elections — begins Saturday, June 12 and ends Sunday, June 20. Primary day is June 22.

The deadline to request an absentee ballot is Tuesday, June 15.

To find more information about the vote and ballot, visit www.voting.nyc.

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