By Jen Johnson
Digital Director, RepresentUs

June 12, 2019

After an impressive show of public support, officials in New York City just voted to put Ranked Choice Voting on the city's November ballot. If voters approve RCV this November in America's largest city, it would triple the number of people using RCV. 

The vote by the NYC Charter Commission is the latest in a growing call across America for this simple reform that would improve our voting system. How does it work? I'm glad you asked.

How Ranked Choice Voting Works

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Right now, voters are forced to choose between the lesser of two evils to avoid what's known as the "spoiler effect." As a result, third party candidates are seen as vote-splitters and rarely get enough support to win, leaving us trapped in a two-party system with only two choices.

Ranked Choice Voting, also known as RCV, introduces a simple but powerful change to the way we vote: Instead of voting for the lesser of two evils, rank your top candidates in order of preference. If your first choice is mathematically eliminated, your vote counts toward your second choice. That way, you can vote your conscience without worrying about accidentally electing the candidate you like the least.

Today's vote to put it on the ballot in America's largest city is a testament to the increasing interest in this reform across the country. 

The building momentum for Ranked Choice Voting

New York City is the latest to put Ranked Choice Voting to the test, but it's not the first. RCV is already in place in the state of Maine and cities including San Francisco, Santa Fe, Minneapolis, and more.

And while it's a relatively new reform, Americans have shown it's one worth defending. After Maine voters passed RCV in 2016, politicians attempted to repeal it. To defend it, volunteers had to collect 80,000 signatures from voters in just 88 days for a People's Veto - and they did! In June 2018, Maine voters succeeded in their veto and kept RCV.

The campaign to get Ranked Choice Voting on the ballot in NYC

Ranked Choice Voting didn't end up on the ballot by accident; it was a campaign led by Common Cause New York that involved hundreds of volunteers.

In New York City, ballot questions are approved by a committee called the City Charter Commission - and commissioners are appointed by various city officials.

In advance of the vote, RepresentUs members joined Common Cause New York on an ambitious public engagement campaign to show Commissioners that it's time to put RCV on the ballot. Volunteers made calls and sent messages to the Charter Commission appointers asking them to go on the record in support of Ranked Choice Voting. They showed up to provide public testimony and submitted online testimony directly to the commissioners. 

RepresentUs joined the effort, and submitted legal testimony in support of Ranked Choice Voting documenting its many successes in other parts of the country.

What's next in the campaign?

The Charter Commission's vote marks a victory in the first step of this campaign: Convincing city officials to let the voters decide on Ranked Choice Voting. Now it's up to us - the entire anti-corruption movement - to make sure it passes this November.

RepresentUs is working with partners and volunteers to launch a winning campaign, and we need help from people across the country (yes, that means you!).

The first step in this campaign is public awareness. Most voters don't know what RCV is, and many don't vote in citywide elections. To win, we need to make sure New Yorkers know what Ranked Choice Voting is, and that they have a chance to pass it this November.

Each of us knows someone in New York. By sharing this article and news about RCV making it to the ballot, you'll help put this campaign on the map. So share this news with your networks - or if you want to get even more involved, join the RepresentUs volunteer network here.

RepresentUs is America’s leading anti-corruption organization working city-by-city, state-by-state to fix our broken political system.