“They say all throughout the country that ranked-choice voting is working well for communities of color,” Laurie A. Cumbo, a Black Democratic councilwoman from Brooklyn, and one of the litigants, said during the hearing on Monday. “Well, New York City is a totally different city.”
New York City voters approved ranked-choice voting in 2019. Under the new system, if a candidate wins a majority of first-choice votes, that candidate wins outright. If no candidate wins a majority, the last-place winner is eliminated. The second-choice votes of those who had favored the last-place candidate would be counted instead. The process continues until there is a winner.
Among the mayoral candidates who already seemed to be factoring the new voting system into their campaign strategies was Shaun Donovan, the former Obama administration cabinet member who formally announced his run on Tuesday. An “electability” slide show circulated on his behalf argued that “Shaun’s broad appeal makes him a natural second and third choice for voters, even when they are already committed to another candidate.”
Good-government groups say that the new system enhances democracy.
“This reform will foster more positive, issue-focused campaigns, give voters more choice, ensure that elected officials are accountable to a broader spectrum of their constituents and avoid costly, time consuming and unnecessary runoff elections,” Betsy Gotbaum, executive director of Citizens Union, said in a recent statement.
But critics of the system argue that without adequate public education, the system confuses voters and thus disenfranchises them. They also contend that the voting system targets a party system heavily populated by leaders of color.
Kirsten John Foy, president of the activism group Arc of Justice, said he was exploring a lawsuit with Hazel N. Dukes, the president of the New York State chapter of the NAACP, arguing that Black and other minority voters would be disenfranchised by ranked choice voting.
“Some progressive white folks got together in a room and thought this would be good, but it’s not good for our community,” Ms. Dukes said. “The voters did vote, so we can’t overturn that, but we want a stay because there’s been no education about this in our community.”