In yesterday’s election New York City voters passed Ranked Choice Voting as a ballot measure. This means that in future elections such as those for mayor of the city, independent candidates will have a much better shot at getting elected.
In Ranked Choice Voting, also known as Instant Runoff Voting, a voter can indicate their preference across multiple candidates instead of selecting just one candidate. So let’s say there is an independent whom I really like but who is a long shot. Historically I might be worried that by voting for that candidate my vote would effectively be useless and that could be a problem if I think it will take away from my second choice candidate.
A classic example of this situation in Presidential elections was the run of Ralph Nader in 2000. In Florida, Bush beat Gore by 537 votes, but Nader received nearly 100,000 votes there, running on a platform that was much more similar to Gore than to Bush. Effectively the people who voted for Nader helped get Bush elected. With Ranked Choice Voting, they would have put Nader first and Gore second (and if they so want Bush third). Then when it is clear that Nader isn’t going to win, their first choice vote is discarded and their second choice vote is instantly activated (hence the instant runoff).
I am excited to see New York City adopt this system, which is now gaining momentum. It is promoted by a growing coalition, including the excellent Represent.us.