Ranked-Choice Voting Will Come Under Attack By the Usual Opportunists

·2-min read
Photo credit: STEPHANIE KEITH - Getty Images
Photo credit: STEPHANIE KEITH - Getty Images

I am a supporter of ranked-choice voting. Not as ardent a supporter as I am of proportional representation, but I presume that went off the table around when the Clinton Administration got scared out of hiring Lani Guinier. I will grant you, however, that it’s going to take those of us who were raised with first-past-the-post elections a little while to adjust to the notion with RCV that things may not be over when they appear to be over. The developments on Tuesday in the race to be mayor of New York are an excellent test case for how we retrain our political brains for the new world of elections. From the New York Daily News:

After 11 rounds of ranked choice counting, Adams held a 15,908-vote — or 2.2% — lead over Garcia, according to unofficial results released by the Board of Elections surveying all in-person votes cast in the race. Maya Wiley, the only other major contender left in the race, was eliminated in the 10th round. Still, the results are not certified, and more than 130,000 absentee ballots cast in the June 22 election have yet to be counted. Absentee ballot results are not expected until July 6 at the earliest.

You may recall that, after the initial tally of ballots was done, Adams had a clear margin over Maya Wiley. He had all weekend to be treated like the winner on TV and in the public prints. He even started talking openly about a swift and smooth transition. Now, 11 rounds later, Wiley’s gone and Kathryn Garcia is breathing down his neck and there are still at least 130,000 ballots to be counted over the next week-to-10 days. This gives me great pause, because I can see this race heading for a messy court battle of one kind or another before we know who the new mayor of New York is. This will prompt a spate of dumb Luddite “I-toldja-so” takes from people who wouldn’t have voted for any of these candidates anyway.

As should be obvious by now, there is an overwhelming need to update the procedures by which we elect people. Some of this is technological and some of this is structural. And, as should be equally obvious by now, there is going to be resistance against any innovation, some of it well-founded and some of it pure opportunism. But having NYC pick a mayor through RCV is a big step, and it would be unfortunate if the results were devalued through a legal brawl that would damage the credibility of the new system. Hell, the question of whether the country can run an election fairly and properly under the old system remains wide-open.

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