Mayoral hopefuls call for greater education on rank choice voting ahead of 2021 elections

(l. – r.) Council Speaker Corey Johnson, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and Susan Lerner of Common Cause New York. (Photo by Mark Hallum)

With the mayor’s office up for election in 2021 – as well as the majority of City Council seats – the introduction of rank choice voting could be a baptism by fire for New Yorkers, officials say.

This is why mayoral candidates came together Wednesday to call on an informational campaign to get an early start educating the public about the changes passed in 2019 to make the most of their first, second, third and so-on choice for elected office.

“What we want to happen is we want voters to be informed, we want people to know how ranked choice voting works and that process has to start now,” Council Speaker Corey Johnson said. “We can’t let folks not used to using ranked choice voting going into 2021 and not have all the information, so today is shining an early light.”

The Campaign Finance Board (CFB) is not only responsible for overseeing the city’s matching funds program, but also for educational campaigns leading up to elections through regularly distributed voter guides.

Matthew Sollars, a spokesman with the CFB, told amNewYork Metro the organization does indeed have a plan in the works to arm voters with knowledge which will be included and on top of the information in voter guides.

“We are developing a rank choice voting educational campaign,” Sollars said.

The CFB is also cautious of misinforming voters if they began that rank choice educational program too soon, Sollars noted. There was a chance New Yorkers would be confused if they went to vote in the 2020 Queens Borough President race with the understanding it would be ranked choice, when if fact the law will not go into effect until the beginning of 2021.

Susan Lerner, the executive director with Common Cause, was joined in the press conference at Federal Hall by not only Johnson, but also Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams and city Comptroller Scott Stringer.

Three of the elected officials at the podium, Johnson, Adams and Stringer, have expressed the intention to run mayor while de Blasio’s final term wraps.

Which brought Johnson to the subject potential benefits of ranked choice; less friction between candidates during campaigns who can contend to be an individual’s second choice for office. But Adams jokingly shot that notion down with the retort, “trust me, it’s going to be a dirty campaign.”

Rank choice voting was approved by New York voters themselves when it was included on the November 2019 ballot.

One reminder that rank choice voting should be given to voters as a fallback was when Councilman Rory Lancman dropped out of the crowed 2019 primary for Queens District Attorney. Voters in some parts of the borough filled out ballots in favor of Lancman, either with or without the knowledge he was still on board.