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New Yorkers went to the polls Tuesday to choose the nominee for their next mayor, but a new voting system could delay the final results for at least a week.
Voters approved the use of ranked-choice voting for mayoral, city council, and other local races in 2019, with this week’s closely watched mayoral primary serving as the first test of a system that will allow voters to choose more than one candidate on their ballots.
The new system shifted how candidates campaigned in the New York City race, and Deb Otis, senior research analyst at FairVote, said that is by design.
“One of the big problems that a lot of us are seeing is that when more than two candidates run in a single election, our system totally breaks down,” Otis told the Washington Examiner. “We end up with split votes, where two similar candidates might draw on the same base of support."
In a typical election, candidates who hold the most popular positions could divide the majority of voters, allowing a candidate with outlier views to cinch a victory, according to Otis.
“This can lead to outcomes that don’t reflect the needs of the majority voters,” Otis said.
In an eleventh-hour move that highlighted the unique nature of running in a ranked-choice race, two rivals in the primary, Kathryn Garcia and Andrew Yang, joined forces over the weekend to encourage each others’ supporters to list either Garcia or Yang second on their ballots if they chose the other first.
Garcia, a former sanitation commissioner and centrist Democrat, said her campaign trail appearances with Yang were not endorsements of her opponent. Instead, she said she rallied voters with the former presidential candidate to promote the fact New Yorkers could select them both on their ballots.
However, the front-runner in recent polls objected to the alliance between two of his highest-polling rivals.
Eric Adams, a former New York City Police Department officer whose push to crack down on rising crime catapulted him to the front of a crowded field, accused Garcia and Yang of “voter suppression” by campaigning in a way he said would repress the diverse support for his mayoral bid.
But ranked-choice voting is intended to inspire such alliances, Otis said, because the system encourages candidates to broaden their appeal so people supporting rivals will list them as a second or third choice, instead of creating incentives to go negative to energize their own supporters.
If no candidate earns more than 50% of the vote on Tuesday, and none in the Democratic primary is expected to, then choices further down the ballot will come into play over multiple rounds of calculation.
Voters are permitted to select up to five candidates, ranking them in order of preference.
In the first round of vote tabulation, the candidate who has been ranked "No. 1" the fewest number of times will be eliminated.
When that happens, the “No. 2” choices on the eliminated candidate’s ballots will be added to the vote totals of the remaining candidates who got listed second. Then the last-place finisher will be eliminated once again, with the “No. 2” choices on their ballots getting tacked on to the tallies of those who remain, and so on. If the “No. 2” choice on an eliminated candidate’s ballot has already been removed in an earlier round, then the calculation will move to the “No. 3” choices.
The process will continue for as many rounds as it takes for one candidate to amass 50% of the vote. The tabulation is conducted by computer and can happen relatively quickly once the count begins.
But New York City has opted to wait to start the calculation rounds until a week after Election Day to provide more time for mail-in ballots to arrive.
City officials said they won’t reveal the results from the first round of ranked-choice voting until June 29, and full results from what could be many rounds of calculations may not be available until mid-July. The first rounds of calculations will only include ballots cast in person, with absentee ballots included in another set of results set to release on July 6.
Later Tuesday evening, the city is set to release data on who earned the most “No. 1” rankings, which could paint a misleading picture of who will become New York City’s mayor, although that has happened rarely in places that use ranked-choice voting.
According to FairVote, a candidate who wasn’t leading in the first round of calculations has gone on to win the election under this system in less than 15% of ranked-choice races since 2004.
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Still, the unique features of the Democratic mayoral primary could make the process unpredictable, as ranked-choice voting has never before been used in New York City.
For example, Adams’s aggressive attacks on candidates that share his centrist leanings, such as Yang and Garcia, could dissuade supporters of ideologically similar campaigns from ranking him high on their list of alternatives. This could cost Adams, who polls say is in a position to earn the highest number of "No. 1" votes, in a close race that comes down to many rounds of tabulation.
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Original Author: Sarah Westwood