Barbara Lifton

New York State Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton from her 2018 town hall in Ithaca. 

Assemblywoman Barbara Lifton (D-125) announced today that she’s introduced a bill in the State Assembly that would allow “ranked choice” voting to be conducted on a trial basis for county and local elections, including school boards, in the 2022 and 2023 election years.

Ranked choice voting would serve as a local option and its implementation would be subject to a vote by the residents of that municipality. Lifton said other places that have implemented ranked choice voting, such as Maine and some U.S. cities, have seen "more people voting and and reduced negative election rhetoric."

“New York State, despite recent improvements, still has the ninth lowest voter turnout rate in the country, and as we explore ways to reverse this trend, it’s important that we be open to innovative reforms, like ranked choice voting, that have the potential to strengthen our democracy," Lifton said. 

In contrast to our current method of voting, in which voters cast their ballots in favor of a single candidate in a multi-candidate election, and the candidate with the most votes wins, ranked choice voting allows voters to rank multiple candidates by order of preference. If the candidate with the most first-choice votes wins a majority of votes, then that candidate wins the election. However, if no candidate wins a majority, then the candidate with the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated, and supporters of that candidate will have their second-choice votes counted. The process repeats automatically until one candidate receives a majority of the votes. This type of voting would also save money for municipalities by avoiding the cost of runoff elections, in a situation where a runoff could be required, according to a press release issued by Lifton's office Thursday morning.

“The ranked choice voting system has several potential benefits,” Lifton said. “For starters, in a race with multiple candidates, it allows voters to choose their favorite candidate without fear that they will play the spoiler and help elect a candidate to whom they are strongly opposed. Secondly, it likely cuts down on negative campaigning, because it encourages candidates to seek out second- and even third-choice votes, thus discouraging candidates from alienating voters who support another candidate as their first choice. Finally – and this in my mind is probably the biggest advantage – it encourages higher voter turnout and ensures that the winning candidate has true majority support, rather than just a plurality in a multi-candidate contest.”

Senator Krueger carries a matching bill in the New York State Senate.

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(1) comment

John Gregoire

It would be nice if "ranked choice" would be explained in detail. I would much rather have a State form of the electoral college so that a few cities would stop running the state.