Ranked Choice Voting

A charter amendment to establish ranked choice voting was on the ballot in November 2019. 73.6 % of voters voted yes to establish ranked-choice voting to be used for primary and special elections beginning in 2021.

How does ranked-choice voting work?

Ranked-choice voting allows voters to rank candidates based on their preferences, from choosing one up to five candidates in order. If a single candidate does not reach 50% of first-place votes, the last place candidate is eliminated and their votes are reallocated to the remaining candidates based on those voters’ second choices, with candidate elimination and vote reallocation continuing until a candidate hits 50%. 

Hypothetical: In a NYC primary election for Comptroller there are five candidates: Candidates A, B, C, D, and E. Say there two or three candidates that you like. You like Candidate C the best, but you also like Candidate A and to a lesser extent Candidate B. You can rank Candidate C as your first choice, Candidate A as your second and Candidate B as your third. You don’t have to rank all five – in fact, you can just choose one candidate. But the option is there for you to voice your support for multiple candidates. For the voter, that’s basically all they have to think about when going to the ballot box – which candidates to choose and how to rank them.

How are Votes Tabulated?

Once the polls close, if a candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, that person wins outright. If no one has a majority of first-choice votes, after the first round, the person with the lowest number of first-choice votes is eliminated. That candidate’s votes are redistributed to the second-choice candidate on the ballots.

The process is repeated for each round – the person with the lowest number of votes gets eliminated and their votes get redistributed to other candidates that have been ranked on the ballot – until one candidate has achieved a majority.

Which races will be affected by this change?

Starting in 2021, all citywide, borough president and City Council primaries (not General Elections) will use ranked-choice voting, as well as special elections for any of those positions. It won’t be used for any state, statewide or federal races. So ranked-choice won’t be used to elect state senators or Assembly members, Congress members, U.S. senators, governors and other statewide officials. It also won’t be used in district attorney races in the city, which are technically not municipal elections.