AOC, Andrew Yang get wish as NYC voters adopt ranked-choice voting system

New York City voters on Tuesday decided to amend the city’s constitution, restructuring primary and special elections to operate under a new ranked-choice voting system, which allows voters to rank their top five candidates on the ballot according to preference.

The plan had backing from U.S. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., and Democratic presidential candidate Andrew Yang, a businessman and New York City resident.


The new ballot structure will eliminate New York’s traditional runoff elections, which take place for citywide offices if no candidate garners at least 40 percent of the vote, Politico reported. New York City will adopt the new ranked-choice system in primary and special elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and city council beginning in January 2021.

Advocates such as Yang argued the system would free voters to cast ballots for third parties and pick the candidates they truly prefer rather than strategically go for the Republican for Democrat.

“Just voted here in New York - Ranked Choice Voting is on the ballot!” Yang wrote on Twitter on Tuesday. “Ranked choice voting would let us express our true preferences and make our politics more dynamic and responsive. We should make it the norm throughout the country.”

Yang, who’s made ranked-choice voting a campaign issue, also says the system forces candidates to appeal to a wider range of voters rather than leaning on a narrow base.

Ocasio-Cortez, while encouraging New Yorkers to get out to the polls, said on Twitter “This year we have 5 ballot proposals, including one on RANKED CHOICE VOTING which is pretty cool.”

Ranked-choice voting has sometimes resulted in unorthodox campaign tactics -- including groups of candidates forming alliances against competitors to win the second- or third-place votes, Politico reported. California Gov. Gavin Newsom, a Democrat, voted against a bill last month that would have permitted more cities and counties to use the system, saying it spurred too much voter confusion.

The Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, published a report in August that said ranked-choice could obscure voter choices and devalue individuals' votes.

"It also disenfranchises voters, because ballots that do not include the two ultimate finalists are cast aside to manufacture a faux majority for the winner," the report says. "In the end, a voter’s ballot might wind up being cast for the candidate he ranked far below his first choice — a candidate to whom he may have strong political objections and for whom he would not vote in a traditional voting system."

Given New York City is the most populous city in the nation, Tuesday’s vote tripled the number of people around the country who will use the ranked-choice voting system. The system has been either used or approved in 18 other cities, including San Francisco, Minneapolis and Cambridge, Mass., as well as in the state of Maine, Politico reported.


Under a ranked-choice system, voters rank up to five candidates on the ballot. Voters would not be forced to rank every candidate -- they could still choose just one if they want. A candidate who receives a majority of first-choice votes would win the election.

If there is no majority winner, the last place candidate would be eliminated and any voter who had that candidate as their top choice would have their vote transferred to their next choice. This process would repeat until only two candidates remain, and the candidate with the most votes then would be the winner, according to the New York City Campaign Finance Board.