Go to the Working Families Party List the favorite candidates in the June 22nd Democratic primary in New York City and you will find something unprecedented: an endorsement that ranks three candidates for the top job in the largest city in the country. In the running for the mayor of New York, the WFP declared for City Comptroller Scott Stringer as the party’s first choice, former public school teacher and nonprofit CEO Dianne Morales as second choice, and civil rights attorney and former MSNBC analyst Maya Wiley as third choice.
The WFP, which has played a pivotal role in local politics for two decades and is led by some of the city’s most accomplished electoral strategists, doesn’t send mixed signals. It’s just as dedicated as it should be in order to have the maximum impact on a new type of choice. This year, for the first time, the New York Democrats will nominate their candidates for mayor and other local offices using a ranking system that allows voters to select up to five candidates for the same office in a voting process Losing competitors to those who might win.
For the Mayor’s race in 2021, this means that voters no longer have to choose between front-running candidates that pollsters and experts claim are the only “viable” prospects. They can cast ballots based on values and ideals, and support candidates they are drawn to based on ideologies and track records. If a preferred candidate falls short, the vote for that candidate will not be “wasted”. It is transmitted in such a way that the end result can still be influenced. For example, a voter who is enthusiastic about the Morales progressive campaign at grassroots level but fears that she is currently not, leads Polling in the top row of a crowded field, she can safely be ranked first on her ballot. If Morales doesn’t make the cut, the voter’s next candidate will get a boost.
A ranking poll is “majority” and promotes “collaborative campaigns” as opposed to the desperate maneuvers of the past – with its negative campaigns, compromises and the pressure not to waste votes – argues the New York City Council member Brad Lander, a longtime RCV attorney bid for City Comptrollers this year. “It’s a great thing for democracy,” says Lander. And it could be great for progressives pacing up and down in crowded competitions. However, that will only happen if voters know how the system works – and if progressive groups, officials and candidates recognize the role that much education, serious strategy and smart tactics will play in getting results on June 22nd.
With that in mind, here’s an introduction to how to ponder this RCV system in Democratic Elementary School, where New York voters nominate candidates for mayor, controller, attorney, district president, and all city council seats: