Ranked Alternative Voting Stays an Uphill Battle in New York

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When it comes to running for public office, it can get pretty awkward during elections. According to Dave Heller, it is sometimes muddier than theme-based campaigns.

“If you don’t vote for what you want, you’re not speaking your true opinion,” said Dave Heller, director of Ranked Choice NY.

What you need to know

  • Alaska was just the second state after Maine to start voting in the state elections
  • The measure was passed in New York City last year
  • Proponents hope for education and are pushing for a local vote

It’s a group campaigning for eligibility to vote in New York state, and a way that Heller believes could get candidates to focus more on the issues. Also known as instant drain, the system prompts voters to rate their candidates as a first, second, or third choice.

“The other advantage is that you, as a candidate, are trying to get another candidate’s second vote,” said Heller.

A candidate must receive a majority of the votes to be declared a winner. If this does not happen after the first round, the last seat candidate will be eliminated and these votes will be redistributed. This process will continue until a winner is determined.

“If no one gets 50 percent, look at number two and see if there’s a majority there, and if so, call a winner,” said Blair Horner, executive director of the New York Public Interest Research Group .

He says New York City adopted it for their elementary school to save time and money from frequent drains. But across the country, that’s another challenge. According to Horner, asking winners to change the rules in a system where they are successful is politically difficult.

“Part of that is the complexity for voters to explain a new system to them,” said Horner.

He says that was the argument that recently led to his defeat in Massachusetts. Meanwhile, Alaska voters barely managed to become the second state after Maine to hold a ranked election nationwide.

Heller says they will push for it locally, in cities and counties. He hopes this strategy will educate and familiarize more people with it.

But Horner and Heller say it also depends on how it works in the big apple.

“That’s half of our state, so I’m confident we can make it here,” said Heller.

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