NYC votes on RCV tomorrow

On Nov. 5, voters in New York City will decide on a city charter amendment (Question 1) that would establish ranked-choice voting (RCV) for municipal primary and special elections beginning in 2021. If approved, New York City will be the largest city in the nation to use RCV for local elections.

How would Question 1 change the city’s election process? 

  • Question 1 would implement ranked-choice voting in primary and special elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and city council members. It would allow voters to rank up to five candidates, including a write-in candidate, in order of preference.
  • Question 1 would extend the duration of time between vacancies and the special elections held to fill them from 45 or 60 days, depending on the office, to 80 days. This provision applies to the municipal offices named above. 
  • Question 1 would also amend the timeline for city council redistricting.

How are these elections currently conducted? A combination of plurality and run-off voting is currently used in primary elections for the offices of mayor, comptroller, and public advocate. In the primaries for these offices, if one candidate fails to receive more than 40 percent of the vote, a run-off is held between the top two candidates. Plurality voting is used in all general and special elections and primary elections for non-citywide offices. 

What is ranked-choice voting (RCV)? In a ranked-choice voting (RCV) system, voters rank candidates by preference on their ballots. If a candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, he or she is declared the winner. If no candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. First-choice votes cast for the eliminated candidate are removed, lifting the second-choice candidates indicated on those ballots to first-choice status. Under Question 1, these eliminations would be continued until a candidate has won a majority of votes.  

What municipalities use RCV in 2019? The following cities either have used or will use RCV for the first time as part of their 2019 election cycles: Eastpointe, Michigan; Las Cruces, New Mexico; Payton, Utah; St. Louis Park, Minnesota; and Vineyard, Utah.
How many jurisdictions have adopted RCV? To date, 21 jurisdictions (20 municipalities and one state, Maine) have adopted RCV and have either begun using it or are scheduled to begin using it in a coming election cycle. Another seven jurisdictions (six municipalities one state, Utah) have adopted legislation providing for the prospective use of RCV, although none mandate its use. On the map below, states shaded in blue and gold contain jurisdictions that have adopted RCV as part of their election processes. For states shaded in yellow, municipalities either have implemented or will implement RCV this year. For states shaded in blue, municipalities have adopted but have not yet implemented RCV.

Ranked-choice voting map