Wednesday, July 28, 2021

Explainer: Voting by order of preference is put to the test in New York

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NEW YORK: Order-of-preference voting makes its debut in New York City’s mayoral primary on Tuesday in one of the highest-profile tests yet for a system that is gaining use in US pockets. USA
The system is based on a simple premise: democracy works best if people are not forced to choose all or nothing with their vote.
Instead of choosing a single candidate, voters rank several in order of preference. Even if a voter’s first choice doesn’t have enough support to win, their ranking from other candidates still plays a role in determining the winner.
But the system is more complex than a traditional election, making it difficult to predict a winner. It may take longer to get results.
How does it work?
In the New York City version, voters can rank up to five candidates, first to last, on their ballot.
If a candidate is the first choice of the majority of voters (more than 50%), that person wins the race, just like in a traditional election.
If no one reaches that threshold, ranked options analysis is triggered.
The tabulation of votes is done in rounds. In each round, the candidate is eliminated in last place. The votes cast ranking that candidate first are then redistributed to the second choice of those voters.
That process is repeated until only two candidates remain. Whoever has the most votes wins.
There are 13 candidates on the ballot for the Democratic primary for mayor of New York City. Only two candidates are facing each other on the Republican side, making the ranked election not a factor.
Won’t it take forever
All rounds of counting are done by computer in a process that takes very little time.
But absentee ballots complicate matters. Due to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic, everyone in New York can vote by mail.
Mail-in ballots can be cast through Tuesday and could take several days to arrive. A full analysis of ranked options cannot be done until those ballots are included.
After the polls close at 9 p.m. Tuesday, the New York City Board of Elections plans to release data on where the vote count is based only on people’s first choices and only for votes cast in person. .
A week later, on June 29, it will run its first ranking election analysis, using only votes cast in person. The results will be published on the board’s website. They will show who the winner and runner-up would be if no mail-in votes had been cast.
A week after that, on July 6, the board will do another round of ranked options analysis that includes all absentee ballots processed up to that date. If there are still uncounted or disputed votes, the process will run again on July 13 and every Tuesday thereafter until a winner can be declared.
Why do people like the ranked choice?
One of the benefits of the system is that no one “wastes” their vote by choosing an unpopular candidate as the first choice.
You can follow your heart and rank someone you like No. 1, even if you suspect the candidate doesn’t stand a chance. If that person is eliminated, you can still have a say on who wins the race based on your other rankings.
Another benefit is that it is difficult for someone to get elected without broad support. In a traditional election, it is possible for someone with marginal political views to win in a crowded field of candidates, even if the majority of voters do not like him.
In theory, that is less likely in an orderly election system. A candidate could get the majority of the first choice votes, but still lose to someone who is the second or third choice of a large number of people.
What are the negatives?
The system is difficult to understand. It requires voters to do much more research. It also makes racing less predictable.
Transparency and trust are also potential problems. Typically, candidates, the public, and news organizations can see the votes coming in, district by district, and know exactly who is leading and where their support is coming from.
Under the modern system of classified election, the process of redistribution of votes is carried out by computer. Outside groups will have a more difficult time evaluating whether the software ranked the ranked votes accurately.
That’s a headache for news organizations, like The Associated Press, which analyze vote counts and attempt to report on a winner before the count is complete.
And there may be cases where candidates who appear to have a comfortable lead in first-place votes on Election Night lose because relatively few voters rank them as their second or third choice. That could lead people to question the results.
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