Opinion | How to Use Ranked-Choice Voting to Help or Hinder N.Y.C. Mayoral Candidates

By Rob Richie

Mr. Richie is the president and C.E.O. of FairVote, a nonpartisan organization that conducts research and advances voting reforms that make democracy more functional and representative.

New York City has embarked on the biggest ranked-choice voting election in American history with the Democratic primary for mayor on Tuesday. Plenty of New Yorkers are looking for advice on how to fill out their ballots to help their favorite candidates — or to try to block other candidates they don’t want in City Hall.

As a longtime planner and champion of ranked-choice voting, I’ve pulled together some guidance for marking your ballot for a variety of scenarios involving the mayoral candidates, in particular Eric Adams, Maya Wiley, Kathryn Garcia, Andrew Yang and Scott Stringer. But first, the good news for voters: This is not rocket science.

The system is designed for voters to express themselves and arrive at a consensus candidate. Because voting to get the results you want is so intuitive, ranked choice has become the nation’s most popular new electoral reform after successful uses in elections in Maine for president and Congress, mayoral elections in more than a dozen cities and elections for leaders of many major associations.

Among the upsides: In Tuesday’s primaries, races up and down the ballot have multiple candidates of color and women, and in ranked-choice voting, none of them have to worry about split votes. That term describes what often happens when two or more candidates appealing to the same voters run in an election and the votes are divided, causing neither to win. This helps to explain why RepresentWomen and FairVote show sharply rising success for underrepresented candidates.

The best advice is simple: Rank your favorite candidate first, your second favorite second and so on until you reach New York’s maximum of five ranked candidates. If you rank five, you’ll have cast your most expressive ballot ever.

But for voters who want to think strategically, here are a few scenarios to keep in mind.

‘I want Adams to win and Wiley to lose.’

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