Mohammad Zainal Abedin:
New York City (NYC) Democrats will choose their party candidates in the primary under a new system known as ‘Ranked-Choice Voting’ (RCV) who will contest for the posts of Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Councilors. The final election among all the participating candidates will be held under the new system.
This electoral system allows people to vote for multiple candidates in order of preference. Instead of just choosing who/whom you want to win, you fill out the ballot saying who is your first choice, second choice, or third choice (or more as needed) for each position.
“This process continues, with the worst performer in each round eliminated and remaining ranked candidates promoted, until one candidate has won at least half of the first-place votes,” opined ‘Democracy A Journal of Ideas’.
‘The candidate who will get the highest aggregate votes will be declared winner of each portfolio. For example, if there are more than two candidates, if no candidate gets over 50% of the first-choice ballots, the lowest-ranked candidate is dropped, and the second choices of his or her voters are counted and added to the higher-ranked candidates. This process continues until a candidate gets over 50% and is declared the winner.
Among the countries that first introduced RCV nationwide more than a century ago was Australia. Other countries that followed were New Zealand, Malta, and Ireland. Among them Australia was the first, and the system has helped the country avoid vote-splitting by allowing voters to still vote for less-popular and similar candidates that they like.
The cities of several states of the U.S. where RCV was introduced are mentioned below along with their names and years: Massachusetts (Cambridge, 1941); Delaware (Arden since the early twentieth century); Oregon (Benton County 2016); California (Berkeley, 2010); Michigan (Eastpoint, 2019; New Mexico (Las Cruces 2019 for all municipals); State of Maine (2018); Minnesota (Minneapolis, 2009); California (Oakland, 2010); Utah (Payson, 2021); California: (San Francisco, 2004) New Mexico (Santa Fe, 2018), Minnesota (St. Louis Park, 2019); Minnesota: (St. Paul, 2011); Takoma Park (Maryland, 2007); Colorado Telluride (2011); Utah (Vineyard, 2019). (FairVote)
All voters of Alaska, Nevada, Hawaii, Kansas, and Wyoming availed RCV in Democratic Primary election in 2021. New York City decided to use RCV in all city primary and special elections to be held in June 2021.
In NYC, according to ‘Time’ (Nov. 6, 2019) among others, Andrew Yang, was the key advocate, of RCV, a Democratic presidential candidate. He runs as mayoral candidate in NYC in 2021.
RCV of Advantages
Referring to the advantages of RVC ‘Time’ magazine quoted Yang as saying it could help prevent polarized election campaigns, increase the number of women and minority candidates running for office, and reduce negative campaigning.
Several studies showed that women overall and minority women are more likely to win in ranked-choice voting systems. According to experts, ranked-choice systems also tend to favor centrist candidates, since the system allows voters to express preference for one-sided, partisan candidates of their choice, as well as moderate candidates, who have broader appeal. This can also motivate partisan candidates to avoid taking extremes as well as give third-party candidates more incentive to run.
Critics of ranked-choice voting say it confuses voters, increases the risk of disqualified ballots, and sometimes fails to elect the candidate preferred by most voters. The League of Women Voters notes that RCV allows candidates to win even without a majority “if enough voters did not give any votes to their lower choices.”
The RCV system is not full of blessings, rather it suffers from so many shortcomings. Matthew Gagnon, CEO of the ‘Maine Heritage Policy Center’, explains how ranked-choice voting can complicate elections for voters. Ranked-choice ballots can require voters to read up on more candidates and require more time in the voting booth, which can lead to voters making mistakes during voting.
“Our belief is that Maine voters do not know how to maximize their influence in ranked-choice elections by ranking all the candidates, which is compounded when political parties tell voters to rank only one candidate,” says Gagnon.
Voters of other regions may face the same problems. There is also fear that ranked-choice voting can be used by interested parties to game the system. Since candidates often win with the aid of lower-preference rankings, ranked-choice elections can incentivize parties to look for third-party candidates to insert into a race for their own benefit.
This system is Greek to many New Yorkers. I talked to some members of the Bangladeshi community.
Talking to the Bangladeshi community, I came to this conclusion that many voters of different communities belonging to South Asia and beyond will require training. Most of them are not even introduced with RCV.
Critics also say voting may also “confuse voters, increase the risk of disqualified ballots, and sometimes fails to elect the candidate by most voters.” Casting votes under this system may sometimes create problem, as voters subconsciously “ranking more than one candidate in a column is an overvote and will cause that column to be skipped and they overvote transferred to their next Ranked-Choice in the subsequent column,” informs ‘ReadyClear Policy’ ( May 27, 2020 Five Facts About Ranked-Choice Voting | RealClearPolicy)
Conclusion: The RCV system is already termed as complicated. It is apprehended, if no candidate gets 50% votes despite voting and revoting and the stalemate may persist for hours, even for days. So, the system seems to be lengthy, time consuming, expensive, even somewhat confusing. Sometimes, at least some, if not many voters, may become irritated and disinterested in RCV. So, it needs more research, training, and trails to make it easier and time saver. This system is already termed as complicated. It says, if no candidate gets 5t 0% votes despite voting and revoting, the stalemate may persist for hours, even days. If such minor hurdles could be removed and reformed RCV could be an alternative to the traditional way of voting.*