Lew's View: Ranked-choice voting in the mayoral primary
NEW YORK - Ranked-choice voting will be used in the upcoming primary election to choose the Democratic Party's candidate for New York City mayor. Early voting begins 10 days before Election Day. If you want an absentee ballot, you have to request it before June 15 and Election Day is June 22.
That is a lot of dates but the most important date is unknown — that is the date when the primary election winner will be named. More on that in a minute.
I am very confused by ranked-choice voting and the reasoning behind it. One of the only good things about it is that it avoids the need for a runoff election if there is no clear-cut winner.
Our own Robert Moses came up with one of the best explanations of the process I've seen. He held a mock election using candy. In his scenario, Reese's Peanut Butter Cups receives the most first-place votes but ends up losing the election after ranked-choice voting is applied. (Watch Robert's demonstration below.)
Is this the right way to hold an important election? Well, we voted for it so it must be, right? I'm not so sure we, the residents of New York City, knew exactly what we were voting for.
It is very possible that the next mayor of New York City will be the candidate who receives the third-most number-one votes in the primary.
The intent of ranked-choice voting was to give voters more choice and power, encourage candidates to run positive campaigns, and avoid costly run-off elections. In reality, I don't think we anticipated the extent to which the most organized groups would try to manipulate the outcome.
Take the United Federation of Teachers, for example. Since they currently don't see their preferred candidate polling in the top two, they are waging an all-out effort to encourage their members to not place Eric Adams or Andrew Yang anywhere in their top five choices and to "use your additional choices to create buffer votes for your top pick."
Buffer votes? I would call that gaming the system.
With New York in such bad shape after eight years of neglect by Bill de Blasio, we really need to get this one right. I think ranked-choice voting brings too much uncertainty and complexity into a time-honored process of letting the best person win.
As to my comment at the top: To add even more drama to this primary, due to absentee ballots, which must be counted before the ranked-choice process can begin, we will not have a winner until the week of July 12 — a full three weeks after the election.
I believe at the end of this process there will be more questions than answers as to the outcome of what should be a basic function that defines our democracy.