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A Different Voting System Gets a High-Profile Test

Ranked-choice being used in New York City's mayoral race Tuesday
By John Johnson,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 22, 2021 8:29 AM CDT

(Newser) – It's Election Day in New York City. More precisely, Tuesday is the Democratic primary in the mayoral race, and the winner is all but assured to become the city's next mayor in November's general election. The race has an interesting twist: The city is using ranked-choice voting for the first time, which makes it trickier to predict a winner and could delay results for weeks. Details:

  • Candidates: An Ipsos poll has Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams on top with 28%, followed by entrepreneur-turned-politician Andrew Yang (20%), former sanitation chief Kathryn Garcia (15%), and civil rights attorney Maya Wiley (13%). Four other candidates at between 1% and 8% trail them. But as Ipsos points out, the ranked-choice system means the outcome is very much up in the air.

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  • Ranked-choice: On Tuesday, voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference. If one candidate takes more than 50% of the vote outright, that person is the winner, and ranked-choice doesn't come into play. If nobody gets 50%, the last-place finisher is eliminated, and that candidate's second-choice picks are doled out. If no candidate has 50% after that, the process repeats until somebody does. The Washington Post and the AP have detailed explainers. Advocates say it's a more democratic way of picking elected officials. The system has been used for years in some US locales, including San Francisco, but if New York's high-profile test goes well, it could be copied more extensively.
  • Waiting game: Don't expect a winner Tuesday. In fact, USA Today reports that the winner might not be named until July because of the ranked-choice system and the necessity of waiting for absentee ballots. The first ranked-choice analysis encompassing all absentee ballots (assuming such an analysis is necessary) won't be conducted until July 6, notes the AP.
  • Crazy finish: In part because of the ranked-choice system, the home stretch of the race has been "full Technicolor berserk," writes David Freedlander at New York. One big example is the decision by Yang and Garcia to campaign together in an attempt to hurt frontrunner Adams. Freedlander looks at the late strategies of the four leading candidates.
  • Broad strokes: Adams is seen as the law-and-order candidate, pushing for increases in police, while Wiley is the favorite of progressives, advocating for a reallocation of police funds, per the Hill. Yang and Garcia are closer to Adams on the public safety front, notes USA Today. However, Garcia is emphasizing her government experience, along with climate change policies. Yang started the race strong with great name recognition and his plan to institute a basic-income program, but he has since faltered.
(Read more New York City stories.)

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