Ranked-choice voting makes its debut in a City Council race in Queens

File photo: A New York City voter on Election Day 2020
File photo: A New York City voter on Election Day 2020. Photo credit Maria Khrenova/TASS/Sipa USA

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) – Saturday marks the debut of ranked-choice voting in New York City. Early voting is underway in a special election for a City Council district in Queens.

Most city voters will get to know ranked-choice voting (RCV) later this year, with the citywide primary in June. But in Council District 24 in eastern Queens, voters are heading to the polls now in a special election.

Deepti Sharma is among the candidates who say RCV altered their strategy.

“Obviously we always want us to be number one, but if beyond that, we do make sure that we are educating people that they can rank us as two, three and so on,” Sharma said at a recent forum hosted by Common Cause New York.

RCV allows voters to rank their top five choices, with the least popular choice getting eliminated and votes getting recalculated until a consensus pick emerges.

Candidates agree that the system makes for a more issue-focused campaign.

Candidate James Gennaro said it’s about advocating and educating.

“People are going to be looking at all of the candidates, and they're going to be thinking about their number two and their number three, and then paying attention to more people’s platforms,” Gennaro said.

Seventy-four percent of city voters approved of RCV in a referendum two years ago.

A group of City Council members had sued last month, looking to put RCV on hold. They argued not enough outreach had been done about it. A judge denied that request.

Featured Image Photo Credit: Maria Khrenova/TASS/Sipa USA