Ranked-choice voting, explained 1

Voters may fill in one oval in each column, based on the order of preference.

New York City is holding its first citywide primaries using ranked-choice voting this month, during which Queens voters will be able to vote for five different city offices including mayor, public advocate, comptroller, Queens borough president and City Council, along with some judgeships.

With ranked-choice voting, voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference instead of choosing just one.

Proponents of the system, which was approved by referendum in 2019, argue that it promotes majority support among winners and cuts down on negative campaigning. The Queens Chronicle has detailed how the process works below.

Instead of just choosing one candidate who you want to win, your ballot will indicate a second choice, a third choice and so on, up to five, for the office sought.

Say you feel very strongly about candidate X, so-so about candidate Y and dislike candidate Z. A ranked choice ballot will reflect that order of preference.

For voters, the only things they have to know going into primary day are which candidates to choose and how to rank them.

The system ensures that candidates eventually win by a majority — 50 percent or more — instead of a mere plurality of the votes. A plurality vote occurs when a candidate or proposition receives more votes than any other but does not receive more than half of all votes cast.

How does the count work?

If a candidate receives a majority of votes, her or she is declared the winner without resorting to run-off counts.

However, if no candidate gets a majority of the vote, it triggers a counting process.

In that process, the last-place candidate is eliminated, and his or her votes are redistributed to the voters’ second choices.

A new tally is conducted to determine whether any candidate has won a majority of the adjusted votes.

The process gets repeated in rounds until a candidate wins an outright majority and is declared the winner.

Voters don’t have to rank all five candidates. They can, if they so choose, stick with the old habit of choosing one candidate. But if a voter does just pick one candidate and it turns out to be the first eliminated, that voter’s preferences will not be reflected in the rest of the process.

On the ballot the Board of Elections provides, voters will pick their first choice candidate by completely filling in the oval next to his or her name under the first column. For the second-choice candidate, they will fill in the oval next to the name under the second column and so on.

Key Dates

June 12: Early voting begins.

June 15: Last day to request absentee ballots online or by mail.

June 20: Last day of early voting.

June 22: Primary day; polls open 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. All absentee ballots must be postmarked by this date.

June 29: Deadline for Board of Elections to receive absentee ballots.

On the night of the election, the Board of Elections will, as usual, release preliminary results that will include both primary day and all early votes, but will not include results from absentee ballots. The BOE, however, will not run the RCV rounds for the unofficial results until a week after the primary on June 29. The BOE will continue to run unofficial RCV rounds on a weekly basis until all absentee ballots are accounted for, and it is ready to certify the election results.

The official elections results are not expected until midway through July, according to the BOE.

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