By Alicia Venter
The New York City Council voted to approve Intro 696, a bill intended to simplify the ballot used in Ranked Choice Voting elections, on Wednesday, Dec. 7.
In Ranked Choice Voting elections, voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference instead of casting their vote for only one individual.
New York City uses ranked choice voting in primary and special elections for local offices, with the first Ranked Choice Voting election being held on Feb. 2, 2021 in a special election for Queens Council District 24.
According to the legislation, introduced by Flushing Council Member Sandra Ung, the bill would ensure the following:
- Contests on the same ballot page are separated from one another in a bold black lines
- Non-english text can be easily compared to the corresponding English text
- Each language on the ballot is clearly separated and visually distinct
- To the extent practicable, instructions regarding ranked choice voting appear in black font on a white background
The bill will specifically replace the form language that the Board of Elections uses for the instructions on Ranked Choice Voting ballots with clearer language using fewer words.
“New Yorkers pulled off the largest Ranked Choice Voting election in the history of the U.S. when they went to the polls in last year’s June primary,” said Ung in a statement. “This new law will simplify the ballot and make it easier to understand, encouraging all voters, especially those with limited English proficiency, to take advantage of the opportunity to rank their preferred candidates and strengthen the democratic process. I want to thank my colleagues in the City Council for passing this legislation, and look forward to these common sense ballot changes being implemented in time for the June 2023 primaries.”
Common Cause, a watchdog group that was one of the founders of Rank the Vote NYC, praised the bill.
Rank the Vote NYC was founded in 2019 to bring Ranked Choice Voting to the city. As it is now part of the electoral process, the group now serves to educate voters and the community on the upcoming changes to local elections.
“Common Cause/NY is thrilled that the City Council swiftly voted and passed Councilwoman Ung’s bill which will build on the successes of Ranked Choice Voting and make the ballot even more voter friendly,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY and Board Chair of Rank the Vote NYC said in a statement. “Ranked choice voting affords voters more choice and more voice and puts power back in the hands of the people, delivering consensus majority winners every time.”
According to an exiting poll conducted by Edison Research through early voting and on Election Day in 2021 (June 12 – June 22) , 83 percent of voters ranked at least two candidates on their ballots in the mayoral primary, and 77 percent of New Yorkers want Ranked Choice Voting in future elections.
The City Council also voted to approve Intro 698, a bill introduced by Ung to codify the Public Service Corps, which will require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to recruit students from diverse backgrounds and offer internships at a broad range of city agencies.