Snow way! Bad timing for a monster storm
Feb 02, 2021 | 5627 views | 0 0 comments | 856 856 recommendations | email to a friend | print
As if voter turnout for Tuesday’s special election in northeast Queens to replace Rory Lancman on the City Council wasn’t already going to be low, the foot-plus of snow that fell the day before the polls opened certainly wasn’t going to help matters.

Several of the eight candidates on the ballot called for the mayor to postpone the election, but as of press time the polls were open. But the hearty voters who did make it to their voting location had the chance to take part in a bit of history.

This special election will be the first to use ranked-choice voting, which allows voters to rank their top five choices, if they so choose. (Voters can rank up to five, but aren’t required to.)

In a nutshell, if no candidate receives over 50 percent of the vote, the ballots of the candidate who received the fewest number one votes go to whoever is listed as the second choice. This goes on until one candidate finally has over 50 percent of the vote.

The idea behind ranked-choice voting is that in races with a large number of candidates, one won’t be elected with something like 30 percent of the vote. Instead, they will have to appeal to a broader range of voters to ensure they can eventually get to a majority.

If you think about it, this special election – taking place on a random Tuesday in February the day after a monster storm – is kind of the point of ranked-choice voting.

Turnout is going to be low, and with eight candidates on the ballot one person could have won with even less that 30 percent of the vote with only a small percentage of the registered electorate even bothering to show up.

One candidate who could motivate just a small portion of their base to get out and vote could be elected without even having the support of a large majority of the district.

And we guess the low voter turnout will be good for the beleaguered Board of Elections, which thanks to bureaucratic red tape and little guidance on how to tally the ballots electronically, has already admitted this will come down to a hand count.

Fewer ballots means less of a chance BOE will screw it up. That said, they better figure out a more efficient way to tally and re-tally the votes as often as they need to before citywide primaries in June.

Which brings us back to the special election. The winner will serve out the rest of Lancman’s term, which is over at the end of the year. That means the winner of this special election won’t have much time to enjoy their victory before they have to start preparing for the June primary.

We’ll take a deeper look at the results and how the city handled the first election to use ranked-choice voting in next week’s column.
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