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NEW YORK – Polling stations across New York welcomed a flood of voters on the first official day of a historic election – and those who did emerge seemed prepared for a new style of voting but overwhelmed with decisions.
The Democratic mayor primaries come after one of the darkest times in New York when a city that has been booming for years turned its fate upside down. Crime rates, which have been falling steadily for decades, are skyrocketing, unemployment is dangerously high and the city’s economy is only at the beginning of a fragile recovery.
With this in mind, voters are trying out ranked picks for the first time – New Yorkers can choose up to five candidates for mayor and other civic offices in order of preference, as the early voting Saturday prior to the April 22nd official
“You feel a little more comfortable there,” says Andrea Glenn, 64, about the new system. Prospect Heights, Brooklyn resident ranked Brooklyn County President Eric Adams first for Mayor and Auditor Scott Stringer second. “If my person doesn’t win, my second or third choice may still have the ability.”
This calculation has changed the strategy of voters and campaigns alike – although many who spoke to POLITICO said they had not made full use of the new system.
“I’ve been looking forward to it [RCV] because I usually like the fringes and now you can empower people you might not otherwise have supported, “Crown Heights resident Stephen White, 47, told the Brooklyn Museum. “But in the end I didn’t rate that many people.”
Polling stations were sparsely populated across the city, even in some of the most civically active parts of Brooklyn and Queens. At 10 a.m. at the Brooklyn Museum, there seemed to be more people doing outdoor yoga than marking ballots indoors.
But there were still signs that the political season was peaking. The candidates had crisscrossed the city and the campaigners were numerous, outnumbered the voters, trying to pawn stacks of campaign literature to residents and tourists alike. In Queens, a row of about 20 motorcycles were parked twice, diagonally to a voting site in Cambria Heights. Almost all of them had Adams signs in the windshield. According to an evening tweet, the city’s electoral board counted more than 16,800 early voters.
Many who dared to pull the lever said having a wider say in who wins has been an improvement in recent years. But it took a lot of research to take full advantage of the new method, said Stephanie Horton, 50, who works at Google and lives in the financial district.
“If you don’t really know the candidates, it gets a little random after the second or third round,” she said. “You are not making an informed decision.”
With the city being so heavily democratically skewed, this month’s primaries will effectively select the next mayor, auditor and public advocate along with the district presidents, 51 councilors and a few magistrates. That means more than 20 possible choices on some ballot papers.
White, the Crown Heights voter, chose Maya Wiley as his first choice and Dianne Morales as his number two – both more liberal candidates – leaving the remaining three spots blank. He said he didn’t like the rest of the field. As for the Down-Vote races, he said it was difficult to find enough useful information to form multiple-person preferences – which makes confirmation from well-known elected officials especially important.
The new electoral system was overwhelmingly approved by voters in 2019 to avoid the cost and low turnout in runoff elections. If no one wins a majority, the last placed will be eliminated and the runners-up from these ballots will be redistributed to the remaining field. The process repeats itself until someone breaks the 50 percent mark.
A coalition of groups and elected officials, mostly from the city’s black political establishment, has spoken out against the idea of ranked voting since its inception. They have argued that their communities were not receiving adequate education and ranked fewer in number than other areas of the city – effectively disenfranchising them in an immediate emigration scenario. A recent survey by Fontas Advisors and Core Decision Analytics seemed to confirm some of those fears, showing that white voters from Manhattan and Brooklyn were most likely to vote more than one person on their ballot papers.
Adams, a top contender, voiced doubts about the new system just last week, criticizing the city’s educational efforts to get rankings and fueling the specter of controversial results when the census ends close or the city’s error-prone electoral body finds any hooks in the tables.
“What happens to normal New Yorkers? The electoral board has once again betrayed us and not properly enlightened and distributed information, ”he said last Friday during an election freeze in Lower Manhattan. “It would be lucky if we got these results by January 18th. We don’t know how long this will take. I am really concerned about the result, I hope the count does not match the introduction. ”
On Friday, however, Adams received warm confirmation for second place from US Representatives Ritchie Torres, Hakeem Jeffries and Gregory Meeks, as well as the Citizens Union – each of whom had already selected other candidates as first choice.
And voters in Southeast Queens, a critical battlefield composed mostly of black homeowners, appeared comfortable with the system on Saturday.
Veronica Haynes, 57, a compliance manager for Amtrak from Laurelton, told POLITICO that she ranked Andrew Yang first, followed by Kathryn Garcia, Wiley, Ray McGuire and Stringer. Haynes, a 22-year-old NYPD veteran, said she was drawn to Yang’s message of change and his approach to the city’s problems.
“I liked him when he ran for president … I think he’s probably something new, some fresh air,” she said. “Why not? Let’s try.”
Reuben E., a 66-year-old former St. Albans utility worker who refused to give his last name, said he was looking for experience and level-headed political ideas. Reuben ranked Eric Adams first, followed by Yang, Wiley, McGuire, and Shaun Donovan, and praised the ranked voting system to avoid later runoffs.
“A few candidates have turned out to defuse the police,” he told POLITICO. “That wasn’t a big issue. Maybe a little better managing their budget, but compensating the police is a categorically ridiculous statement. “
That sentiment is also reflected in polls, with many New Yorkers citing a dramatic increase in shootouts as a subject of great concern for the primaries. Those fears have only fueled Adams, a retired police captain who has focused his campaign on public safety.
Adams led the recent polls as Yang fell behind from his early lead at the start of the race. Brooklyn District President Adams recorded another solid quarter of fundraising by raising $ 618,000 and spending a whopping $ 5.9 million, giving him $ 1.7 million in the final filing period that ended last week US dollars were available.
Garcia, the former hygiene officer who has also risen steadily in the polls, had her best submission to date – as the city’s Campaign Finance Board reported, she recently raised more than $ 700,000, of which $ 1.3 million Dollars remained in the bank.
Yang raised more than $ 430,000 and still has $ 1.8 million left.
Wiley, former de Blasio attorney and legal analyst for MSNBC, didn’t fare so well – he took in just $ 286,000 and only $ 35,000 in the bank. As other progressives’ campaigns weathered severe setbacks, the city’s far-left leaders rallied behind Wiley’s Standard only recently, with late endorsements last weekend from MP Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez and public advocate Jumaane Williams.
Wiley joined Yang, Adams and McGuire on Rev. Al Sharpton’s National Action Network on Saturday morning to vote for the leaderboard pick.
“Ranking more than one candidate means that if we go to a runoff, you still have one vote and one vote,” Wiley told the crowd. “Don’t let them be taken from you.”
The electoral body will release initial voting numbers on June 22nd showing which candidates New Yorkers have chosen as their first choice. However, since no one is expected to crack 50 percent, the board will have to wait for the postal vote to arrive before completing the ranking process, which could take until mid-July.
Reuben E. said avoiding a runoff was a good thing – it wasn’t waiting.
“I think it’s great. It saves money, less anger and grief,” he said. “The only problem is you have to wait so long for results. So it’s not over after election night.”