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Ranked Choice Voting FAQs

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About Ranked Choice Voting

Why are we using Ranked Choice Voting?
New Yorkers elected to use Ranked Choice Voting in a 2019 ballot measure. It passed with 73.5% support.

Which elections use Ranked Choice Voting?
New Yorkers will only use Ranked Choice Voting in special and primary elections for local offices, including Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council.

Ranked Choice Voting will be used in all Special Elections taking place after January 1, 2021. The first citywide election with Ranked Choice Voting will be the Primary Election on June 22, 2021.

How does Ranked Choice Voting work?
You can rank up to five candidates in order of preference, instead of choosing just one. If a candidate receives more than 50% of first-choice votes, they are the winner. If no candidate earns more than 50% of first-choice votes, then counting will continue in rounds. At the end of each round, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated. If you ranked that candidate first, your vote will go to the next highest ranked candidate on your ballot. This process will continue until there are 2 candidates left. The candidate with the most votes wins.

What benefits has Ranked Choice Voting brought to other cities and states?
Ranked Choice Voting gives voters more say in who gets elected. Even if your first-choice candidate does not win, you are still able to affect the outcome by supporting your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or even 5th choice. Because candidates will need broad support (even from voters who may not rank them first), campaigns are more likely to focus on appealing to voters like you and less on attacking each other.

Ranked Choice Voting also leads to more diverse candidates winning office. Cities that have implemented Ranked Choice Voting have elected more women and more women of color, making their elected officials more representative of their communities.

Who else uses Ranked Choice Voting?
Seventeen U.S. cities including San Francisco, Santa Fe, and Minneapolis use Ranked Choice Voting, in addition to the State of Maine. It is also used by the Academy Awards!

How can I partner with NYC Votes to educate my community about Ranked Choice Voting?
Thank you for your interest in spreading the word! You can find information on becoming a community partner here.

How to fill out your ballot

How do I fill out my ballot?
You can rank up to 5 candidates in order of preference.

An example of a correctly marked RCV grid ballot where candidate A through D appears in rows and 1 through 5 appears in columns. Ovals are marked as follows: Candidate B is ranked 1, Candidate C is ranked 2, Candidate A is ranked 3, Candidates E is ranked 4, and Candidate D is ranked 5.

  1. Pick your first-choice candidate and completely fill in the oval next to their name under the 1st column.
  2. If you have a second-choice candidate, fill in the oval next to their name under the 2nd column.
  3. You can rank up to 5 choices. You can still choose to vote for only one candidate if you prefer. Ranking other candidates does not harm your first choice.

Can I still vote for just one candidate?
Yes. If you prefer, you can still vote for just your first-choice candidate. However, ranking other candidates does not harm your first choice.

Do I have to rank a total of 5 candidates?
No. You can rank up to five candidates, but you do not need to rank a total of 5.

How do I vote for a write-in candidate?
To vote for a candidate whose name is not on the ballot write the name on the “Write-in” line, and fill in an oval to rank your choice.

Can I rank my favorite candidate more than once?
No. If you rank your preferred candidate more than once, for example as your 1st, 2nd, 3rd, 4th, and 5th choice, then only your first ranking will count. There is no strategic benefit to ranking the same candidate for all rankings.

An example of an incorrectly marked RCV grid ballot where five candidates are running. The voter who completed this ballot ranked Candidate B for 1, 2, 3, 4 and 5. This ballot marking error is called Duplicate Ranking.

Can I rank multiple candidates as my first choice?
No. You can only choose one candidate for each ranking. If you choose more than one candidate as your first choice, your ballot will not be valid.

An example of an incorrectly marked RCV grid ballot where five candidates are running. The voter who completed this ballot ranked both Candidate B and Candidate C as 1. This ballot marking error is called Overvoting.

How your ballot will be counted

How are votes counted by the Board of Elections?
All first-choice votes are counted. If a candidate receives more than 50% of first-choice votes, they win the election.

Bar chart displaying the results of first-choice vote totals. Candidate A is shown in green and has 16 percent of the vote. Candidate B is shown in purple and has 54 percent. Candidate C is shown in blue and has 22 percent. Candidate D is shown in orange and has 8 percent. Candidate B is the winner of this election because they have 54 percent of first-choice votes.

If no candidate earns more than 50% of first-choice votes, then counting will continue in rounds.

On left: A correctly marked RCV grid ballot where candidate A through D appears in rows and number 1 through 5 appears in columns. Candidate D is ranked 1, Candidate C is ranked 2, Candidate B is ranked 3, and Candidate A is ranked 4. The oval for Candidate D who is ranked 1 is darker than the other ovals. On right: Bar chart displaying the results of first-choice vote totals. Candidate A is shown in green and has 27 percent of percent of first-choice votes. Candidate B is shown in purple and has 39 percent. Candidate C is shown in blue and has 22 percent. Candidate D is shown in orange and has 12 percent. Candidate D has the fewest votes in this round.
one candidate eliminated, votes redistributed: On left: A correctly marked RCV grid ballot where candidate A through D appears in rows and number 1 through 5 appears in columns. Candidate D is ranked 1, Candidate C is ranked 2, Candidate B is ranked 3, and Candidate A is ranked 4. Candidate D's name is grayed out because they were eliminated in the last round. The oval for Candidate C who is ranked 2 is darker than the other ovals. On right: Bar chart displaying the results of vote after Round 1. Candidate A is shown in green and has 27 percent of first-choice votes. Candidate B is shown in purple and has 39 percent. Candidate C is shown in blue and has 22 percent. Candidate D has 12 percent, their entire bar and name is grayed out and arrows point from Candidate D to the three remaining candidate's bars. The ballots for the 12 percent of voters whose top choice in this round was Candidate D will move to the next-highest ranked candidate on their ballots.

Each round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated. If your highest rated candidate is eliminated, your vote will move to your next highest rated candidate.

Each round, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated

This process continues until there are only 2 candidates remaining. The candidate with the most votes wins.

On left: A correctly marked RCV grid ballot where candidate A through D appears in rows and number 1 through 5 appears in columns. Candidate C is ranked 2, Candidate B is ranked 3, and Candidate A is ranked 4. Candidate D's name is grayed out because they were eliminated in the last round. The oval for Candidate C who is ranked 2 is darker than the other ovals. On right: Bar chart displaying the results of vote after Round 1. Candidate A is shown in green and has 27 percent of first-choice votes plus 4 percent of Candidate D's orange votes to total 31 percent. Candidate B is shown in purple and has 39 percent of first-choice votes plus 6 percent of Candidate D's orange votes to total 45 percent. Candidate C is shown in blue and has 22 percent of first-choice votes plus 2 percent of Candidate D's orange votes to total 24 percent. Candidate D's bar and name is grayed out because they are no longer active.

When can I expect results in Ranked Choice Voting elections?
It is likely that final results in Ranked Choice elections will not be known until all absentee and military ballots are counted, which could take several weeks after Election Day.

If I rank five candidates, do five votes get counted?
No. You only get one vote counted. Your vote will only count toward your highest rated candidate who has not been eliminated. If your top choice candidate gets eliminated, your vote will then count toward your next highest rated candidate.

Is there a benefit of ranking multiple choices?
Yes. By ranking multiple candidates, you can still impact who gets elected even if your top choice does not win. Ranking multiple candidates ensures your vote will go toward your 2nd, 3rd, 4th, or 5th choice if your top choice is eliminated, giving you more say in who wins.

Will the voting machine tell me if I make a mistake on my ballot?
If you vote in person, the voting machine will let you know if you give multiple candidates the same ranking or submit a completely blank ballot when you scan it in. If you make a mistake, you can ask a poll worker for a new ballot. The voting machine will not let you know if you skip rankings or rank the same candidate multiple times, since your top-choice vote will still count in those situations.

Find more information about Ranked Choice Voting here.

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