STATE OF NEW YORK
2019-2020 Regular Sessions
May 31, 2019
Introduced by M. of A. LIFTON -- read once and referred to the Committee
on Election Law
AN ACT to amend the election law, in relation to establishing a ranked
choice voting method for certain local elections; and providing for
the repeal of such provisions upon expiration thereof
The People of the State of New York, represented in Senate and Assem-bly, do enact as follows:
1 Section 1. Legislative findings. The current system of voting often
2 results in the election of a candidate that does not have the majority
3 support of the electorate when there are three or more candidates
4 running for an elective office. Further, where there are three or more
5 candidates for an elective office, voters often will not vote for their
6 preferred candidate to avoid "wasting" their vote on a "spoiler" candi-
7 date. Rather, they will vote against a candidate they dislike, by voting
8 for a leading candidate that they perceive as the lesser of two evils.
9 The result of the current system in multi-candidate races can be the
10 election of candidates that lack majority support.
11 The ranked choice voting method provides for the majority election for
12 elective offices. Ranked choice voting gives voters the option to rank
13 candidates according to the order of their choice. If no candidate
14 obtains a majority of first-choice votes, then the candidate receiving
15 the fewest first-choice votes is eliminated. Each vote cast for the
16 eliminated candidate shall be transferred to the candidate who was the
17 voter's next choice on the ballot. The process is continued until a
18 candidate receives a majority of votes.
19 There are several potential benefits to the ranked choice voting meth-
20 od. First, voters are free to mark their ballot for the candidate they
21 truly prefer without fear that their choice will help elect their least
22 preferred candidate. Second, it insures that the elected candidate has
23 true majority support. In addition, the ranked choice voting method will
24 (1) promote higher voter turnout, and (2) encourage positive campaign-
EXPLANATION--Matter in italics (underscored) is new; matter in brackets
 is old law to be omitted.
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1 ing, since candidates will seek second-choice and third-choice votes
2 from voters and will therefore be less likely to attack other candidates
3 and alienate voters that support other candidates as their first choice.
4 In situations where runoffs are already required, it will eliminate the
5 need for a second runoff election, with its increased costs and lower
6 voter turnout.
7 The ranked choice voting method has been the subject of increasing
8 interest across the nation. It has already been adopted by local refer-
9 enda in California, Vermont, and Massachusetts. It is under consider-
10 ation in many other states.
11 It is the purpose of this act to permit the use of the ranked choice
12 voting method on a trial basis in certain local elections at the option
13 of local governments in the years 2022 and 2023. This pilot program
14 would permit the state legislature to evaluate the broader application
15 of the ranked choice voting method to elections in New York state.
16 § 2. The election law is amended by adding a new article 18 to read as
18 ARTICLE 18
19 RANKED CHOICE VOTING METHOD
20 Section 18-100. Definitions.
21 18-102. Ranked choice voting method authorized in certain cases.
22 18-104. Ranked choice voting method; ballots.
23 18-106. Ranked choice voting method; procedures.
24 18-108. Voter education.
25 18-110. Construction.
26 § 18-100. Definitions. 1. "Ranked choice voting method" shall mean a
27 method of casting and tabulating votes that simulates the ballot counts
28 that would occur if all voters participated in a series of runoff
29 elections, whereby the voters rank candidates according to the order of
30 their choice and, if no candidate has received a majority of votes cast,
31 then the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated and
32 the remaining candidates advance to another counting round. In every
33 round, each ballot is counted as one vote for the highest ranked advanc-
34 ing candidate.
35 2. "Local government" shall mean a county, city, town, village, or
36 school district.
37 § 18-102. Ranked choice voting method authorized in certain cases. 1.
38 For elections to be held in the years two thousand twenty-two and two
39 thousand twenty-three, local governments are hereby authorized to
40 conduct elections utilizing the ranked choice voting method for the
41 following elections: (a) member of the board of education in the case of
42 a school district, (b) county executive and county legislator in the
43 case of a county, (c) mayor, member of city council, public advocate,
44 comptroller, and borough president, in the case of a city, (d) town
45 supervisor and member of town council in the case of a town, and (e)
46 mayor and village trustee in the case of a village. "Election" shall
47 include the general election and primary, where applicable.
48 2. In order to implement the ranked choice voting method as provided
49 in subdivision one of this section, the governing body of the local
50 government shall adopt a resolution implementing the ranked choice meth-
51 od as authorized by this article. Such resolution shall be subject to a
52 permissive referendum.
53 3. Such resolution shall be adopted by the governing board of the
54 local government at least one hundred eighty days before the election
55 for which ranked choice voting will be utilized.
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1 4. The provisions of sections 18-104, 18-106, 18-108 and 18-110 of
2 this article shall apply only when three or more candidates have been
3 nominated or designated for an office enumerated in subdivision one of
4 this section, and the governing body of the local government has enacted
5 a resolution implementing the ranked choice voting method.
6 § 18-104. Ranked choice voting method; ballots. 1. For offices subject
7 to the ranked choice voting method, the ballot shall be simple and easy
8 to understand and allow a voter to rank candidates for an office in
9 order of choice. A voter may include no more than one write-in candidate
10 among that voter's ranked choices for each office. If feasible, ballots
11 shall be designed so that a voter may mark that voter's first choices in
12 the same manner as that for offices not elected by the ranked choice
13 voting method.
14 2. Instructions on the ballot shall conform substantially to the
15 following specifications, although subject to modification, based on
16 ballot design and voting machine:
17 "Vote for candidates by indicating your first-choice candidates in
18 order of preference. Indicate your first choice by marking the number
19 "1" beside a candidate's name, your second choice by marking the number
20 "2" beside a candidate's name, your third choice by marking the number
21 "3" beside a candidate's name and so on, for as many choices as you
22 wish. You may choose to rank only one candidate, but ranking additional
23 candidates will not hurt the chances of your first-choice candidate. Do
24 not mark the same number beside more than one candidate. Do not skip
26 3. A sample ballot for an office subject to the ranked choice voting
27 method shall illustrate the voting procedure for the ranked choice
28 voting method. Such a sample ballot shall be included with each absentee
30 4. The appropriate election official for a local government where the
31 ranked choice voting method has been authorized by said local government
32 shall insure that the necessary voting system, vote tabulation system,
33 or other similar or related equipment shall be available to accommodate
34 the ranked choice voting method.
35 § 18-106. Ranked choice voting method; procedures. The following
36 procedures shall apply in determining the winner in an election for an
37 office subject to the ranked choice voting method:
38 1. The first choice marked on each ballot shall be counted initially
39 by election officials. If one candidate receives a majority of the votes
40 cast, excluding blank and void ballots, that candidate shall be declared
42 2. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes cast at
43 the end of the initial count, the candidate receiving the fewest first-
44 choice votes shall be eliminated. Each vote cast for the eliminated
45 candidate shall be transferred to the candidate who was the voter's next
46 choice on the ballot.
47 3. Candidates with the fewest votes shall continue to be eliminated,
48 with the votes for such candidates transferred to the candidate who was
49 each voter's next choice on the ballot until a candidate receives a
50 majority of the votes cast, excluding blank and void ballots. When a
51 candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, that candidate shall be
52 declared elected.
53 4. If a ballot has no more available choices ranked on it, that ballot
54 shall be declared exhausted. Where a ballot skips one or more numbers,
55 that ballot shall be declared exhausted when the skipping of numbers is
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1 reached. A ballot with the same number for two or more candidates shall
2 be declared exhausted when these double numbers are reached.
3 5. In the case of a tie between candidates for last place, and thus
4 elimination, occurring at any stage in the tabulation, the tie shall be
5 resolved so as to eliminate the candidate who received the least number
6 of votes at the previous stage of tabulation. In the case of a tie to
7 which a previous stage does not apply, or such previous stage was also a
8 tie, the tie shall be resolved by drawing lots. However, if the tie
9 occurs when there are only two candidates remaining, the tie shall be
10 resolved in accordance with the provisions of this chapter.
11 § 18-108. Voter education. Where a local government shall pass a
12 resolution authorizing the ranked choice voting method, the governing
13 body shall conduct a voter education campaign on the ranked choice
14 voting system to familiarize voters with the ballot design, method of
15 voting, and advantages of determining a majority winner in a single
16 election. The governing body shall use public service announcements, as
17 well as seek other media cooperation to the maximum extent practicable.
18 § 18-110. Construction. All elections held by the ranked choice voting
19 method pursuant to this article shall be subject to all the other
20 provisions of this chapter and all other applicable laws relating to
21 elections, so far as is applicable and not inconsistent with this chap-
23 § 3. Severability. If any provision of this act or the application
24 thereof shall for any reason be adjudged by any court of competent
25 jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair, or
26 invalidate the remainder of this act, but shall be confined in its oper-
27 ation to the provision thereof directly involved in the controversy in
28 which such judgment shall have been rendered.
29 § 4. This act shall take effect immediately, and shall expire December
30 31, 2024 when upon such date the provisions of this act shall be deemed
31 repealed. Effective immediately the addition, amendment and/or repeal
32 of any rule or regulation necessary for the implementation of this act
33 on its effective date are authorized to be made and completed on or
34 before such date.