NYC voters like ‘easy’ ranked-choice voting on rainy, low-turnout primary day

NYC voters like ‘easy’ ranked-choice voting on rainy, low-turnout primary day

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A rainy primary day appeared to dampen in-person election day turnout but not voters’ mood during New York City’s first citywide election where ballots ranked up to five candidates — a new system many hailed as “easy” and “straightforward,” allowing them more input.

“I voted earlier today at about 10:30 a.m., and it was very easy,” Michael Dubick, a 75-year-old retired college professor, told The Post at PS 261 in Boerum Hill. “I spent about five minutes.

“I did a lot of research, and therefore I had a pretty clear idea of how how I wanted to vote and it was straightforward,” he added of ranked-choice voting.

Tom Crawford said at the Brooklyn school that “everything was easy” when it came to ranked-choice voting.

“I was in there for five minutes or less,” said Crawford, 53.

Corinna Chan said she planned in advance for her first ranked-choice voting experience, which made it go smoothly.

“I brought a bunch of flyers and I googled everybody online,” she said at PS 261 Philip Livingston.

Chan said she thought the ranked-choice system allowed her to feel like she had more say in who is elected.

Some seniors told The Post they had done their homework before casting their ballots, so they didn’t face any hurdles with the new tabulation system.

“I voted for five people, said Winsome Henry, 69, who voted at the Times Plaza Senior Center in Boerum Hill. “I had no problem, because I studied them before I came to vote.”

For other voters, ranked-choice voting was a welcome opportunity to participate in a more democratic voting procedure.

“It actually makes me feel like I’m contributing more to who is winning, because maybe my first choice candidate isn’t as popular as maybe my second choice,” said Chan. “But then if the second choice wins, then I feel like I participated … more in the process.”

“It gives more opportunity to express personal opinion through your vote, it adds nuance to your vote,” Nick Marsella, 28, told The Post in Essex Market on the Lower East Side, before voting.

Bryan Pensirikul, 37, said after voting in the East Village that ranking the candidates was “intuitive.”

“I thought it was intuitive. Everything made sense to me,” he said.

“It doesn’t have to be so black and white, [and] adds a little more nuance.”

Still, Tuesday’s primary was not without hiccups.

Front-runner Eric Adams said that some voters were confused by the new system, which allows those heading to the polls to rank five candidates in order of preference.

“Some in the polling sites were unsure how to rank,” Adams told reporters at the High School of Arts and Design in Midtown.

One older woman marked the candidates’ bubbles with a score, rather than ordering them, the Brooklyn borough president recalled.

“You know what was funny? One lady said she did everyone a three because I thought all of them were threes, but she didn’t realize she was supposed to rank.”

Rival Andrew Yang said he had confidence the majority of New Yorkers had no problem with the new system.

“I think we could have done more to educate New Yorkers about ranked choice voting, but I think New Yorkers are smart,” he told reporters Tuesday afternoon.

With no presidential or congressional races at stake, turnout was expected to be a fraction of what the state saw last November and the periodic rain didn’t help.

Turnout levels varied widely across the five boroughs, where New Yorkers voted in district attorney, comptroller and every City Council seat elections, alongside the one to lead City Hall.

At some polling locations, many New Yorkers filled public school gyms and other venues.

“We’ve had a steady stream of voters here. Very few issues,” said a man working the voting site at PS 290 on the Upper East Side, where 943 New Yorkers voted as of 2:40 p.m.

At PS 53 on the Upper West Side, a poll worker described “surprisingly similar” turnout to last year’s presidential election, when more people typically vote than during local races.

“Well, I was here for the presidential [election] in November and there was a line in the morning wrapping around and then it dropped off during the day,” she said.

“If I had to say a lot or a little, it’s a lot,” said one poll working inside with the ballots. 

“It’s been very steady. I think it’s a high level for a primary,” said a poll worker running the handicap accessible door at PS 53 on West End Avenue.

But at other voting sites, a few trickled in during the rainy day, when those registered with a party can vote until 9.p.m.

Nearby, Luke Ross, 27 voted about 1 p.m at PS 199 on the Upper West Side.

“Looked a little slow,” he said. His ballot counter was at number 102 and there were 10 scanners at the site, said Ross, who works in the legal field.

A poll site in Washington Heights was nearly empty early Tuesday afternoon.

“There’s been hardly anyone here so far!” said a poll worker at PS 173 at about 1:15 p.m. “It’s a Tuesday and I guess it’s hard to get your boss to give the time for something like this. People gotta work.”

The low in-person showing at some locations may be because people already voted last week on one the nine days of early voting or voted by mail. According to the Board of Elections, 191,000 people voted early and 221,000 New Yorkers have requested absentee ballots. Of the absentee ballots, 91,000 have been returned, the BOE says.

With early and mail-in voting, participation in the 2021 primary appears likely to remain low but it may still exceed the anemic showing of 2013, the last competitive Democratic mayoral primary.

Still, Tuesday’s primary is the latest in a string of low-turnout citywide elections.

In 2013, 691,801 Democratic primary voters showed up to cast their ballots and in 2001 786,365 such voters did, showing the city’s turnout woes remain despite the adoption o early voting and an expansion of absentee balloting due to pandemic rules.

In comparison, during the 2020 Democratic presidential race, 848,000 people in the Big Apple voted, even though President Joe Biden had all but sealed the nomination by the time New Yorkers got their chance.

“A lot of people have already voted” Terri Liftin, a comptroller candidate, told The Post while canvassing on the Upper West Side.

Liftin said 100 people had voted by 10:39 a.m. at a voting location on 68th and 2nd.

“Voter turnout was not what I had expected,” she said. “There were a fair number of people who already voted or were voting later this afternoon.”

Keir Kramlich, 32, said the rainy afternoon “probably” made people stay home or wait out the weather.

“I think the weather doesn’t help,” he said just before 2 p.m, when he voted at PS 261. “I think it was busier this morning.”

“I think the rain might keep people from showing up, keep the numbers on the lower side,” said Dubick, the retired professor. “We’ll see what happens later in the day when people come home from work.”

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