Starting in 2021, New York City voters will have the option to rank their top 5 candidates (including a write-in) in our local primary and special elections for Mayor, Comptroller, Public Advocate, Borough President, and City Council.

If voters still want to vote for just one candidate, they can. 

Runoffs are eliminated & candidates will need to win with at least 50% + 1 of the votes.

Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) allows voters to rank candidates by preference instead of choosing just one. It works like this:

1st Choice: The candidate you love.

2nd choice: The candidate you like.

3rd or 4th choice: The candidate you like slightly less.

5th choice: The candidate you can stand.

After years of careful study, in the 2019 election, New Yorkers voted overwhelmingly (almost 75%) to adopt Ranked Choice Voting. 

Ranked Choice Voting promotes candidates who can get broader support than plurality elections (the current system) since the winning candidate typically has strong first-choice support and receives many second and third-place votes.

You can rank up to 5 candidates, as many or as few as you’d like.

  • More choice, more power!
  • Even if your favorite candidate doesn’t win, you still have a say in who’s elected.
  • You can vote your conscience without worrying that you’re wasting your vote or electing a candidate you don’t like.
  • Ranking a 2nd, 3rd, etc. choice will never hurt your favorite candidate.

Ranked Choice Voting is easy! Instead of choosing just one candidate, you can rank them, from your first choice to your fifth.

Find the name of your first choice and fill in the oval next to their name in the “1st Choice” column. Then find the name of your second choice, and fill in the oval next to their name in the “2nd Choice” column. Continue until you have ranked all the candidates you choose to rank, up to five.

It’s up to you how many candidates to rank. Your vote is most powerful if you rank 5 candidates, but your vote will still count if you only rank one or a couple of candidates. If you choose not to rank 5 , you have no backup choices when your top candidate(s) are defeated .   But your vote still counts if you only rank one or a couple of candidates.

Your vote will count only once for that candidate, so it doesn’t help their chances of winning. If they are defeated in a round,  you don’t have any backup choices to be counted in later rounds. It does not help your favorite candidate to rank them more than once.

No. When the ballot scanner reads multiple candidates ranked the same, it will not count your ballot.

No, your 2nd (or 3rd, 4th, & 5th) choices will only come into play if your 1st choice is defeated in any round.

To win, a candidate must receive at least a majority of the total votes counted. A majority is 50% of the total, plus one vote.

After all the votes (including absentee and affidavit ballots) are in, counters will tally only the first-choice votes. If no candidate wins a majority based on first-choice votes, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is defeated, and the second choices from each voter whose candidate was defeated are reallocated as if they were first choices. 

We repeat the process until we are down to the last two candidates. In each round, the candidate now in last place is defeated, and the second choice votes on those ballots are redistributed.  If the second choice on those ballots has already lost, the voter’s third choice is then redistributed, and so on.

The process is repeated until the top vote-getter of the final two candidates is declared the winner.

The official winner will not be declared until all votes are counted

including early, election day, affidavit, and absentee votes.  Ranked Choice Voting does not make counting any ballots faster or slower than they were counted before.   Once all the ballots have been counted, the Rank Choice Voting computer tabulation is almost instantaneous.

Unofficial results, including the total number of in-person ballots that ranked each candidate as their top choice, will be released on election night. 

If no candidate wins a majority in the first round, totals for each round will be released, although those results will most likely be delayed past election night. Ranked Choice Voting does not speed up or slow down counting the ballots.  

Delays in counting absentee or affidavit ballots are caused by state law.  Under current state law, the NYC Board of Elections does not begin to count absentee ballots until at least 7 days after election day, to allow for absentee ballots to arrive in the mail. The New York State Legislature is looking at ways to speed up the process of counting absentee ballots. We hope that any changes will be in place for New York City’s June 23, 2021 primary.

Mistakes happen, so if you make one, don’t be shy!   

Voters in NYC also have the right to request assistance in the moment if they have questions while filling out their ballots.

Mail-In Ballot:

Immediately call the NYC Board of Elections at 1-866-Vote-NYC (1-866-868-3693) and they will be happy to help, or get you a replacement ballot, if needed. 

In-Person Voting:

Return your spoiled ballot to a poll worker and they will help you get a new ballot printed. The scanner will not accept your ballot if you vote for more than 1 candidate with the same rank and will return it to you.  In that instance, return your rejected ballot to a poll worker who will help you get a new ballot to fill out.

50% + 1 is the definition for a majority of voters. The 50% represents half of voters, and the + 1 represents the one single vote needed to get over 50% and achieve the required majority. 

That’s right.  If there is no majority winner – 50%+1 in the first round – the elimination rounds continue until there are only 2 candidates left.  The winner is the candidate in the final two with the most votes. Depending on the unique circumstances of each election, it can take many rounds to reach a final 2 candidates. 

It varies widely depending on the number of candidates in each race and their success in garnering a broad coalition of support. 

We hold down the number of rounds, even with a lot of candidates, by using batch elimination.  Batch elimination allows you to eliminate blocks of candidates who are low vote-getters instead of eliminating only 1 defeated candidate per round.

Yes. In fact, this is one of the selling points of Ranked Choice Voting. It is often advantageous, with Ranked Choice Voting,  for candidates to cooperate and campaign together (vote for me No.1 and my cooperating candidate No. 2.  And negative campaigning is discouraged, because it often backfires, costing the attacking candidate 2nd and 3rd place votes.  There are even examples of candidates producing joint videos, mailers, and other campaign literature encouraging voters to rank them either #1 or #2 on their ballots.

Election light results will look pretty much the same as they do without Ranked Choice Voting.  The Board of Elections will release the total number of 1st choice votes which every candidate gets, not just the top 5 vote getters.

Not very likely.  We won’t know the actual winner until all of the absentee and affidavit ballots have been counted and added in with the in-person early voting and election day  ballots.  In our state, that often takes more than 10 days or 2 weeks.

No.  It takes the same amount of time to count absentee and affidavit ballots  whether or not we use Ranked Choice Voting. Using Ranked Choice Voting doesn’t slow down or speed up the counting.

No.  The computer tabulation of the Ranked Choice Voting rounds is almost instantaneous.  Any delay in determining the final winner comes from the delays in counting absentee and affidavit ballots required by New York State law. 

The Board of Elections will be releasing the results for every one of the rounds, so voters can see exactly how the final result was calculated. We are working with them to be completely transparent and put out the results in graphic form and release the raw data as well.

It means that the candidate has the least votes of the candidates in that round and has been defeated.  In other words, it means they’ve lost.

We hold down the number of rounds, even with a lot of candidates, by using batch elimination.  Batch elimination allows you to eliminate blocks of candidates who are low vote-getters instead of eliminating only 1 defeated candidate per round.

Ranked Choice Ballots can be exhausted, but they don’t get tired.  A ballot is exhausted when all of the candidates which the voter has ranked are defeated and the voter’s vote can’t be redistributed any longer.  This is sometimes also called a “spent” ballot.


This is rare. New York City allows voters to rank up to 5 choices to minimize the possibility of this happening. However, if the final round with only two candidates doesn’t have a majority winner, the candidate with the most votes shall be declared the winner. 

If a candidate does not get enough second or third-place votes to gain a majority, they would lose to another candidate who appeals to a broad enough coalition of voters to garner the necessary second or third-place votes to put together a majority. 

It is virtually impossible to game a Ranked Choice Voting election. Voters are generally able to figure out when a candidate is lying to them to gain an unearned ranking.  Other candidates will be sure to set the record straight regarding the deceptive candidate’s real record.

The scanner will reject any ballot where you mark more than one candidate for the same rank  – in other words, if you fill in more than one oval in the same column.  But if you rank the same candidate more than once, that is to fill in more than one oval on the same row, the scanner will accept your ballot.

Ranked Choice Voting doesn’t change this.  The order of candidate names on the ballot is determined by lottery.