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Choose Wisely, Choose Often: Preferential Voting Returns to New York

When New Yorkers last went to the polls, they had to consider a governor’s race and a host of congressional races in the critical 2022 midterm elections.

But there was one variable they didn’t have to deal with: preferential voting, which had been used the previous year in the mayoral election.

For City Council races on the ballot this year, ranked-choice voting returns for the June 27 primaries, with early voting beginning Saturday, June 17.

Here’s what you need to know about the voting system:

The voting system, approved overwhelmingly by city voters in 2019, is used in primary and special elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president and city council.

Under preferential voting, voters can list up to five candidates on their ballots in order of preference.

If a candidate gets more than 50% of the first-choice votes in the first round, they win.

If no candidate does, the winner is decided by a process of elimination: The candidate with the fewest votes is removed from each round and their votes are reallocated to the candidate ranked next by the voters until there are only two candidates left. The candidate with the most votes wins.

It may seem complicated. But all you need to know as a voter is this: rank your favorite candidate first, then choose up to four other choices, in order of preference.


Mr Adams had expressed doubts about the preferential ballot, but it could have helped him win – even if the process was complicated.

Initially, the first unofficial results showed Mr. Adams with a narrow lead. But then election officials announced that they had miscounted the ballots. A new tabulation again revealed that Mr Adams had garnered the most votes in the first round, but he was not declared the winner until weeks later when the voters’ secondary choices were compiled.

Under the old system, Mr Adams would have faced a runoff because he failed to secure at least 40% of the vote. In a runoff, he would have faced his closest rival in the first round of the 2021 Democratic primary: Maya Wiley, a lawyer and MSNBC contributor. Voters would have faced a clear choice between two candidates, and it is unclear who might have won.

But after reviewing the voters’ ranked choices, Ms. Wiley was eliminated and, in the final round, only Mr. Adams and Kathryn Garcia, the city’s former sanitation commissioner, remained.

Mr. Adams won the primary by a slim margin: just 7,197 votes. The ranked choice system also helped Ms. Garcia; she was in third place after the initial vote count for first place, but fell to second when other candidates were eliminated and their supporters’ votes were reallocated.

Every member of the 51-member city council is running to keep their seat, including candidates who won two years ago under unusual rules that were part of the city’s charter.

Less than half of the races are contested, and among these, 13 races present more than two candidates, which makes it necessary to vote by classification.

The most interesting of these races is in Harlem, where current board member Kristin Richardson Jordan, a Democratic socialist, recently retired from racing.

Supporters say the system allows people to express their preferences more fully and have a greater chance of not losing their vote to a less popular candidate. Voters can exclude a candidate they really dislike from their ballot and ensure that their vote helps one of their opponents.

Preferential voting is also proven to encourage more candidates to run, especially women and people of color, and to discourage negative campaigning, since candidates no longer compete for a single person’s vote.

Candidates sometimes cross paths with each other to boost like-minded allies. Some political pundits believe that if Ms Garcia and Ms Wiley had supported each other in the primary, one of them would have become New York’s first female mayor.

Preferential voting is used in Maine and Alaska, as well as dozens of cities, including San Francisco and Minneapolis. Opponents believe it confuses many voters and may discourage some from voting.


Just days before early voting began, two Democratic candidates in the competitive Harlem City Council race backed each other: Yusef Salaam, an activist who was wrongfully jailed in the Central Park rape case, and Al Taylor, a state deputy.

The move appeared aimed at arresting Inez E. Dickens, a Democratic state congresswoman who previously held the Council seat.


Not all news on the site expresses the point of view of the site, but we transmit this news automatically and translate it through programmatic technology on the site and not from a human editor.

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