By Jim Ellis
July 9, 2021 — The Ranked Choice Voting system was on major display in the New York City primary races that began with early voting on June 12 and ended yesterday with declaration of winners. Adding early voting and Ranked Choice Voting in lieu of traditional ballot casting created a 26-day election period, but did the expanded voting cycle change any results?
Ranked Choice Voting is a variation of an instant runoff, a concept that dates back to a similar system first used in Australia in 1918. The idea is to prevent a person from winning a plurality election with a just a small percentage, i.e., Brooklyn Borough president Eric Adams would have won the New York City mayoral Democratic primary with 30.8 percent of the vote on the single election day of June 22 had the traditional system been in place. This means that 69.2 percent of voters chose another candidate.
Instead, after the 26-day election period, Adams still won the party nomination under Ranked Choice Voting but with a convoluted 50.5 percent majority vote at the conclusion of a marathon counting process.
For years, mostly southern states have used a runoff system to correct the problem of a candidate winning an election with a small percentage, such as NYC’s Adams’ 30.8 percent recorded on June 22. In those places, a secondary election is held between the top two finishers at a later date. Ranked Choice Voting allegedly produces a majority result, but without the expense of running a second election.