Polls differ on success of ranked-choice voting awareness
Stephon Johnson | 3/18/2021, midnight
Voting continues to be a mess in New York City.
A new poll from PIX11News, NewsNation and Emerson College found that 46% of African American voters and 38% of Latino voters don’t know about ranked-choice voting whereas only 20% of white New Yorkers haven’t heard about it.
Overall, according to the poll, only 40% of all New Yorkers know about ranked-choice voting.
New Yorkers of color tend to be the most marginalized group and having no knowledge of ranked-choice voting could make the voting process harder for those who go to the polls. Next Tuesday, there are two City Council special elections in the Bronx. The city’s Board of Elections began manually counting ballots in recent special elections in Queens. This is despite the State Board of Election approving to use software, dubbed the Universal Ranked Choice Voting Calculator, in late January.
In an emailed letter sent to the City Board of Elections, the State Board of Elections, the state agreed to work with the city in developing a plan to make sure the voting software counts votes efficiently and quickly.
“We realize that there is a special election currently underway in NYC and two more on the horizon, and NYSBOE will work with NYCBOE as to interim procedures to conduct the RCV tabulation until such time as a full examination is complete and successful.”
The city BOE didn’t respond to the AmNews’ requests for comment.
With ranked-choice voting, and voter would be given a ballot with a list of candidates. There will be five available spots for voters to fill out the bubble for their choice in order of preference. But you aren’t obligated to fill out all five spots. You can still write in candidates and you can still vote via absentee ballot. The goal of ranked-choice voting is to end the need for runoffs, which (according to New York State Election Law) occur when no citywide candidate receives at least 40% of the vote in a primary election.
There will be two special elections in the Bronx on Tuesday for city council in District 11 and 15 to replace Andrew Cohen and Ritchie Torres, respectively. Both races have seen campaign contributions from hedge funders to an heir to the family that runs Walmart. With money pouring in the WPIX, NewsNation, Emerson College poll paints the city in a bad light. Mayor Bill de Blasio’s office, Public Advocate Jumaane Williams’ office and other election officials didn’t respond to requests for comment by press time.
However, a spokesperson for the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB) told the AmNews that the agency’s currently engaged in an effort to make New Yorkers aware of the new normal...using a different poll altogether.
“NYC Votes has launched a comprehensive effort to educate New Yorkers about ranked-choice voting,” said Mathew Sollars, director of public for the CFB, to the AmNews. “So far, we have concentrated our efforts primarily on reaching voters in the districts holding special elections and exit polling suggests those efforts have been successful.
Sollars is referring to a survey conducted by Rank the Vote NYC, a coalition of ranked-choice voting advocates and educators. The survey showed that 95% of voters in special elections for Council Districts 24 and 31 in Queens found ranked-choice voting simple or somewhat simple. Sixty-one percent ranked multiple candidates with 31% of those using up all five spots on the ballot. Among those ones who picked one candidate, 80 of those surveyed said they didn’t use ranked-choice voting because they only liked one candidate.
Sollars said that the NYC Votes campaign will focus on getting every neighborhood and community ready to exercise their right to vote starting on June 22.
“In the weeks ahead of the June primary, our campaign will build on those successful efforts. We have budgeted more than $2 million for advertising, in addition to the Voter Guide that will be mailed to all voters citywide,” said Sollars.