One, Two, Three, This Is What We Are Fighting For - Women’s Campaign Fund

After days of tallying, the 2021 Democratic primary for New York City mayor produced a winner. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, a former police officer, prevailed in a tight contest among 13 candidates.

The primary was a winner not only for Adams but for a different kind of election system: ranked-choice voting, or RCV. This method lets voters select their favorite candidate, and also opt to select their second and third choices. It’s been used in at least 19 U.S. cities; statewide in Maine; and internationally in Australia and New Zealand as one way to ensure whoever is elected has a true majority of support.

RCV also boosts the chances of candidates whose odds of winning are typically longer, such as female candidates, those from ethnic or ideological groups, or those with moderate funding.

How it works

RCV works like this: A candidate wins outright if she or he receives over 50 percent of the vote. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes as a first-choice candidate is eliminated and those voters’ second choice is added to the tallies of the remaining candidates as a “first-choice” vote.

The tally continues until a candidate receives 50 percent plus 1 vote — an actual majority, where a candidate receives more votes than all other candidates combined. This is in contrast to a single-winner “plurality” system, where a candidate who polls more votes than any other candidate is elected.

How it helps us

RCV helps women and other candidates who have struggled in the plurality system, one that usually favors incumbents, demands lots of money to run, and splits the votes among similar candidates seeking breakthroughs. It also eliminates the need for a runoff election, saving time and money.

A voter torn between two candidates can choose one first and the other second, giving both a boost. It also seems to reduce negative campaigning, because no candidates know who will wind up on the bottom — and thus lose their votes first. You don’t want to attack an opponent because you want to be their supporters’ second or third choice.

A 2020 report by the group RepresentWomen showed that from 2010 to 2019, women won 45 percent of all municipal ranked-choice elections. As of April 2020, nearly 46 percent of mayors and 49 percent of all city council seats decided by ranked-choice voting were held by women, the report notes. These numbers indicate how the ranked-choice system can bring us closer to our goalpost of #5050x2028 — roughly 50/50 representation by women and men in elected offices nationwide by 2028.

“At Women’s Campaign Fund, we welcome solutions that voters choose to get us to #5050x2028, opening more opportunities for women candidates to run, win, and work for the good of all.”
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How it all turned out

In the New York City race, preliminary results showed Adams with 32 percent, Maya Wiley with 22 percent, and Kathryn Garcia with 20 percent of first-round votes. Ultimately, the RCV process created a tight race between Adams and Garcia, who at first seemed out of the running.

Final results: Adams won with 50.5 percent of almost 938,000 votes cast — the highest primary-level turnout in more than 20 years. Garcia fell less than 8,500 votes short of overtaking Adams. Her late surge appears to be because she was the second choice of many New Yorkers, the exact sort of result RCV is designed to make possible.

Adams has pledged to name a female police chief, and — thanks to RCV — NYC may have for the first time a majority of females on its city council.

At Women’s Campaign Fund, we welcome solutions that voters choose to get us to #5050x2028, opening more opportunities for women candidates to run, win, and work for the good of all. Count us in.

©2021 Women’s Campaign Fund

#5050x2028

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