It was overwhelmingly approved by voters at the ballot last year, but now there is a push to to delay ranked-choice voting.
Once it is implemented, it will mean voters will no longer have to fill out the bubble next to a candidate's name on the ballot. Instead, they will have to rank candidates in order of preference. If no candidate gets a majority, the worst performing candidate is eliminated and his or her votes are redistributed. That process continues until someone gets more than 50% of the vote.
Sean Dugar, education campaign program director at Rank the Vote NYC, which played an instrumental role in helping to garner support for the ballot measure, pointed to other municipalities around the country that have successfully implemented the change and in fact elected more candidates of color to public office.
"No matter the age of the person participating, no matter the ethnicity of the person participating, no matter their first language, people get it," Dugar said. "It’s simple. It’s just ranking one, two, three, four, five in order of their preference. We already do it everyday."
But those pushing for a delay say local agencies have not done enough to educate voters. They say Black and Brown communities will likely be confused and therefore disenfranchised. To make matters worse, they point to the ongoing pandemic as another complicating factor.
Those pushing for a delay include Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, who is also running for mayor. Adams said he remains in favor of the system, but said he is concerned there has not been enough voter education to ensure a smooth transition.
"To say that Black and Brown folks won’t be able to understand something that everyone else is able to understand has other underlying tones to it," Dugar said.
Incoming members of the state legislature are also crying foul, suggesting delaying the change would only undermine the will of voters and keep Democratic machine organizations in control of the process.
Ranked-choice voting will be put into effect for the first time next year, during a City Council special election scheduled for February.
In a statement, a Board of Elections spokesperson said the agency is "ready to implement ranked-choice voting and begin a public education campaign and poll worker training immediately following the December City Council special election."
This week, the City Council’s Black, Latino, and Asian Caucus sent a letter to the City Council Speaker Corey Johnson asking him to delay the implementation of the new system, but it is unclear whether Johnson, who supported ranked-choice voting as a ballot measure, would back any delay.
The speaker declined to comment and Councilman Daneek Miller, who co-chairs the caucus and is pushing for the delay, also declined an interview.
The city's Campaign Finance Board, which is supposed to educate voters on the new system, said efforts to do just that will be launched next week.