A “Rank the Restaurants” event in Jersey City hosted by Voter Choice NJ, New Jersey Appleseed, and Ward E Councilman James Solomon provided an overview on how ranked-choice voting would work yesterday.
By Daniel Ulloa/Hudson County View
“Ranked-Choice Voting has been shown to increase access to elected office. More People of Color and more women were elected to city council. Voters don’t need to strategically vote and choose candidates based on who they think can get elected,” Veronica Akaezuwa, a volunteer from the NJ Appleseed Center, said.
“We’ve seen these double-digit increases. More voters end up being represented at the ballot box, and it increases voter turnout.”
They compared the votes in New York City in 2013 and 2021, when RCV was adopted, and saw a 29 percent increase in votes.
Furthermore, only 15 percent of voters in the city had inactive ballots in the final round of the Democratic primary for mayor.
“It gave people a reason to go out to the polls,” Akaezuwa added.
In an RCV election, in Round One, four candidates for one office are ranked by preference by the voters.
If there is no clear majority, there is a second round of voting where the candidate that got the least amount of votes is eliminated, and their votes are redistributed to the other candidates. The idea is to avoid a vote being “wasted.”
So while a radical might be the first choice of a few, a more pragmatic reformer choice would be their second choice against a moderate establishment candidate.
Akaezuwa explained that a New Jersey legislative bill, S-3369 is sponsored by state Senators Andrew Zwicker (D-16) and Linda Greenstein (D-14) to allow town councils to approve referendums for voters to decide to adopt Ranked Choice Voting.
Additionally, it was noted than the Hoboken City Council approved a measure in support of ranked-choice voting earlier this year.
“As soon as the state advances that, Hoboken will have a Ranked-Choice Voting referendum,” Solomon said, indicating there is already ranked-choice voting in 28 states.
According to data from the Appleseed Center, there is also Ranked-Choice Voting in Canada, Ireland, India, and Scotland, among other countries.
“It’s done in Alaska, and it’s done in Maine. It increases the number of people who run for office. It increases the choices of voters. It makes campaigning more positive because you have to win votes, and people are trying to get ranked second and third. All that is valuable in any state or any ballot,” Solomon explained.
“That’s particularly valuable in a state like New Jersey, which doesn’t have a lot of electoral competition.”
“Is New Jersey really that bad versus the states across the Northeast?” Solomon said he asked a friend.
“It’s worst than you think,” was the reply.
“I literally have no choices! I have a ballot of 10 positions, and all I’m seeing is one, one, one. That’s for many reasons! I’ll be happy to talk about those over a beer. The more beers I have, the more I’ll say,” Solomon joked.
His colleagues, Ward F Councilman Frank “Educational” Gilmore and Ward D Councilman Yousef Saleh said they were also supportive of RCV.
“Anything that’s going to propose more voters participating in the political arena… I’m definitely supporting that. You can sign me up, definitely,” stated Gilmore.
“Anything that’s going to continuously help fine-tune our democracy, increase engagement, increase participation and get people who are disenchanted and bring them into the fold … I’m all about that,” Saleh added.
Hoboken 2nd Ward Councilwoman Tiffanie Fisher also attended the event.
NJ Appleseed Executive Director Renee Steinhagen said the restaurant ballots are meant to be ranked, the same way an RCV ballot would be, indicating that Jersey City Mayor Steven Fulop is in support of this idea.
“I, of course, have to vote for the restaurants downtown in Ward E,” Solomon playfully interjected.
The six choices for the best restaurant in the mock Ranked Choice Voting election were Edwards Steakhouse, Harry’s Daughter, The Factory, Green Pear, Krewe, and Pasta del Torre.
After 26 Ranked Choice Voting votes were cast, Green Pear won by one vote in the second round.