This June, New York will be the largest city in the U.S. to roll out a new* voting system that is regaining popularity: ranked choice voting. But what’s the big deal, you might ask. How is this better than our old system? We here at MBA in the City will explain it the best way we know how: with Star Wars.
*New unless you live in Ireland, Australia, San Francisco, France, Finland, or many other countries.
How rank-choice voting brings balance to the force
Every election it’s the same old choices: Jedi or Sith. You’d love to vote for a Droid candidate, but they always meld into the Jedi party, so as not to split the vote. It’s the strategic best thing to do, but you end up choosing between the lesser of two evils instead of a candidate who really represents your priorities. But something new is stirring in Tatooine. This election will be ranked choice voting.
A more diverse candidate pool
Suddenly, instead of the usual two candidates, there’s a half-dozen campaigning. A lot of fringe candidates have been emboldened to discuss their ideas. The Mandalorian party are usually the swing voters and have some intriguing ideas about “the way”. The Tusken Raider party is arguing for a wholesale shift in property rights. To your delight, among the new candidates with unique platforms is your true favorite, R2-D2. He’s running on a clean energy platform, pushing for universal free electric vehicle and droid charging.
Incentive for civil discourse and coalition-building
The debates took a notable turn this year. You’re used to some severe name calling in the thick of the Clone Wars, but the tone is remarkably civil. You think the Sith realized that slander will alienate the Mandalorian voters, and the Jedi and Droid parties are at least hoping to be each other’s supporters’ second place. The Jedi and Droids even ended up cross-promoting each other in campaign speeches, urging for voters to give their second choice to their competitor.
Invitation to express true preferences
Often you only vote on close elections. If the race is tight, you vote for Jedi, since the Sith alternative is so horrible. And if the election isn’t close, you don’t bother voting at all, since you already know the likely outcome, and your preferred party still won’t win. But under ranked choice voting, all the closet Droids supporters have a chance to make their voices heard without risking a worse election outcome.
This election day is different. You feel true motivation to vote. You rank Jedi second, knowing that as candidates are eliminated, your vote will transfer to your next preference.
In a galactic republic, every vote should count not just be counted
No vote should be a “thrown away” vote in a galactic republic. And this election, you cast your underdog vote knowing that for the first time, this is truly the case.
Election night is a true nail-biter. In the first count of first place votes, Droids take the lead with 27% of the vote, higher than you could have ever guessed. As the Tusken Raiders come in last with 4%, their redistributed votes bring the Sith into the lead in the second count. But when the Mandalorians are eliminated, the vote becomes overwhelmingly Jedi.
While Jedi are a more neutral and traditional choice, they acknowledge the success of the Droid platform in their victory speech. In the following months, the strong Droid vote leads the Jedi to adopt multiple pro EV policies.
Stories as real as reality
Everything in the above anecdote is based on real-life events from ranked choice voting elections in the U.S. The 2013 Minneapolis mayoral election launching that ranked choice voting was famously diverse and polite, with 35 candidates running on a congeniality contest. And the 2002 San Francisco mayoral underdogs campaigned by co-endorsing each other, only to lose to the centrist incumbent.
But those are the tales of other cities. And it is time for New York to write its own story. So read up on our candidates! Good luck, and happy voting.
How to ranked choice vote in NYC
Number candidates in order of preference, where first place is your first choice.
If your vote cannot help your top choice win, your vote is transferred to your next choice.
Last place candidates are eliminated, and their votes are transferred until one candidate receives the majority of votes.
Note: Don’t feel obligated to rank all five candidates. Just pick anywhere from one to five people you like.