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Mayor worried about ranked choice voting in upcoming mayoral election

(Screenshot courtesy of the New York City Campaign Finance Board)

Mayor Bill de Blasio says he’s worried about how Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) and fatigue from the ongoing COVID crisis will affect the upcoming Mayoral primaries.

“I’m worried because I think the level of focus on the election is so much lower than any Mayoral election I can remember for the obvious reason that we’re still fighting the COVID pandemic,” said de Blasio in his morning briefing this Tuesday.

He said, compared to the past, two months before the election is usually brimming with focus and interest from voters. “It doesn’t feel even slightly like it’s felt in the past,” said de Blasio.

De Blasio said his election worries are only heightened by the introduction of RCV, which is just happenstance its implementation is coinciding with the pandemic among other things. 

“No one could have anticipated that. Obviously, at the time that the referendum was passed there was no COVID in our lives,” said de Blasio.

If we’re going to be scientific about it, RCV as an alternative voting system, meaning a different way to pick one or more out of a bunch of candidates to win, is considered slightly better than the traditional way to vote. 

But, not without its drawbacks, said the Center for Election Science.

For instance, RCV makes it so you can sometimes harm a candidate more by ranking them higher and help a candidate you don’t like by ranking them lower, and sometimes that can push out moderates or better-suited candidates.

Without a clear understanding from voters as to why it’s important to rank each candidate appropriately, as opposed to putting in a favorite candidate five times, the whole intention of the system to create diversity among the majority falls apart.

As an aside, RCV has gives the opportunity to vote for your problematic fave by putting their name in once and no one else, or five times and no one else, but you really shouldn’t do that. 

RCV has caught flack from numerous city council candidates, some of whom are suing on behalf of Black and Brown voters, citing a real lack of outreach and understanding among people of how the system works.

The Mayor said his plan is to coordinate more effectively with the Board of Elections (BOE) to educate every civic and community group about how the new system works or else many people will be “disenfranchised” this year.

“If folks don’t realize the power of putting a second choice and a third choice and a fourth choice, and they don’t do that, they are going to lose their votes in large numbers,” said de Blasio. “There’s definitely work to be done.”

The Mayor’s office later clarified by saying that it’s not the case at all that votes wouldn’t be counted if all five choices weren’t made on the ballot. Votes will not be “lost” if all choices are not filled out, but voters should take advantage of RCV to make their votes count to the “fullest extent” by ranking all five preferred candidates, reiterated the Mayor’s Office. 

[Updated Thursday, April 29 10:46 am]

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