STATE OF NEW YORK
2021-2022 Regular Sessions
April 29, 2021
Introduced by M. of A. THIELE -- read once and referred to the Committee
on Election Law
AN ACT to create a pilot program to test a ranked choice voting method
of elections; and providing for the repeal of such provisions upon
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 who 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
8 voting for a leading candidate that they perceive as the lesser of two
9 evils. The result of the current system in multi-candidate races can be
10 the election of candidates who 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 ensures 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 in years 2024
13 and 2025. This pilot program would permit the state legislature to eval-
14 uate the broader application of the instant runoff voting method to
15 elections in New York state.
16 § 2. Definitions. 1. "Ranked choice voting method" shall mean a meth-
17 od of casting and tabulating votes that simulates the ballot counts that
18 would occur if all voters participated in a series of runoff elections,
19 whereby the voters rank candidates according to the order of their
20 choice and, if no candidate has received a majority of votes cast, then
21 the candidate with the fewest first choice votes is eliminated and the
22 remaining candidates advance to another counting round. In every round,
23 each ballot is counted as one vote for the highest ranked advancing
25 2. "Local government" shall mean a county, city, town, village, or
26 school district.
27 § 3. Pilot program. 1. The state board of elections shall select local
28 governments in which to conduct a pilot program during the 2024 and 2025
29 elections for local office using ranked choice voting. The state board
30 shall select up to ten local governments in 2024 and up to ten local
31 governments in 2025.
32 2. In selecting local governments the state board shall seek diversity
33 of population size, regional location, and demographic composition. The
34 pilot program shall require the approval of the county board of
35 elections where said county board conducts the election for the local
36 government. Said pilot program shall also require the approval of the
37 local government that has been selected for the pilot program.
38 3. The state board shall monitor the pilot program and issue a report
39 with its findings and recommendations to the state legislature by April
40 1, 2026.
41 4. The state board shall implement the necessary regulations in order
42 to implement this act within ninety days after it shall have become law.
43 § 4. Ranked choice voting method; ballots. 1. For elections subject
44 to the ranked choice voting method, the ballot must be simple and easy
45 to understand and allow a voter to rank candidates in order of choice. A
46 voter may include no more than one write-in candidate among that voter's
47 ranked choices for each office. If feasible, ballots must be designed so
48 that a voter may mark that voter's first choices in the same manner as
49 that for offices not elected by the ranked choice voting method.
50 2. Instructions on the ballot must conform substantially to the
51 following specifications, although subject to modification, based on
52 ballot design and voting machine:
53 "Vote for candidates by indicating your first-choice candidates in
54 order of preference. Indicate your first choice by marking the number
55 "1" beside a candidate's name, your second choice by marking the number
56 "2" beside a candidate's name, your third choice by marking the number
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1 "3" beside a candidate's name and so on, for as many choices as you
2 wish. You may choose to rank only one candidate, but ranking additional
3 candidates will not hurt the chances of your first-choice candidate. Do
4 not mark the same number beside more than one candidate. Do not skip
6 3. A sample ballot for an election subject to the ranked choice voting
7 method must illustrate the voting procedure for the ranked choice voting
8 method. Such a sample ballot must be included with each absentee ballot.
9 4. The appropriate board of elections shall ensure that the necessary
10 voting system, vote tabulation system, or other similar or related
11 equipment shall be available to accommodate the ranked choice voting
12 method where the ranked choice voting method is required by this act.
13 § 5. Ranked choice voting method; procedures. The following procedures
14 shall apply in determining the winner in an election subject to the
15 ranked choice voting method:
16 1. The first choice marked on each ballot must be counted initially by
17 election officials. If one candidate receives a majority of the votes
18 cast, excluding blank and void ballots, that candidate shall be declared
20 2. If no candidate receives a majority of first-choice votes cast at
21 the end of the initial count, the candidate receiving the fewest first-
22 choice votes shall be eliminated. Each vote cast for the eliminated
23 candidate shall be transferred to the candidate who was the voter's next
24 choice on the ballot.
25 3. Candidates with the fewest votes shall continue to be eliminated,
26 with the votes for such candidates transferred to the candidate who was
27 each voter's next choice on the ballot until a candidate receives a
28 majority of the votes cast, excluding blank and void ballots. When a
29 candidate receives a majority of the votes cast, that candidate shall be
30 declared the winner.
31 4. If a ballot has no more available choices ranked on it, that ballot
32 must be declared exhausted. Where a ballot skips one or more numbers,
33 the ballot must be declared exhausted when the skipping of numbers is
34 reached. A ballot with the same number for two or more candidates must
35 be declared exhausted when these double numbers are reached.
36 5. In the case of a tie between candidates for last place, and thus
37 elimination, occurring at any stage in the tabulation, the tie shall be
38 resolved so as to eliminate the candidate who received the least number
39 of votes at the previous stage of tabulation. In the case of a tie to
40 which a previous stage does not apply, or such previous stage was also a
41 tie, the tie shall be resolved by drawing lots. However, if the tie
42 occurs when there are only two candidates remaining, the tie shall be
43 resolved in accordance with the provisions of this act.
44 § 6. Voter education. Where an election is subject to the ranked
45 choice voting method, the appropriate board of elections shall conduct a
46 voter education campaign on the ranked choice voting system to familiar-
47 ize voters with the ballot design, method of voting, and advantages of
48 determining a majority winner in a single election. The board of
49 elections shall use public service announcements, as well as seek other
50 media cooperation to the maximum extent practicable.
51 § 7. Construal. All elections held by the ranked choice voting method
52 pursuant to this act shall be subject to all the other provisions of the
53 election law and all other applicable laws relating to elections, so far
54 as is applicable and not inconsistent with this act.
55 § 8. Severability. If any provision of this act or the application
56 thereof shall for any reason be adjudged by any court of competent
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1 jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair, or
2 invalidate the remainder of this act, but shall be confined in its oper-
3 ation to the provision thereof directly involved in the controversy in
4 which such judgment shall have been rendered.
5 § 9. This act shall take effect immediately, and shall remain in full
6 force and effect until December 31, 2026 when upon such date the
7 provisions of this act shall expire and be deemed repealed. Effective
8 immediately the addition, amendment and/or repeal of any rule or regu-
9 lation necessary for the implementation of this act on its effective
10 date are authorized to be made on or before such date.