It’s more complicated : Because preferential voting is unfamiliar to most Americans, some argue that it could confuse voters and discourage participation. Several black members of New York City Council tried to block passage of the ranked choice last year for this reason. “Some progressive white people gathered in a room and thought it would be good, but it is not good for our community,” Hazel Dukes, president of the New York State chapter of the NAACP, told The Times. , Last year.
Others found the argument insulting. “Let me say it clearly,” said Bertha Lewis, president of the Black Institute. “Black voters are not stupid. Interviews with voters in New York this week suggest that fears of confusion and disenfranchisement may have been exaggerated.
Nonetheless, it remains to be seen whether the preferential vote will deliver on its promise of transformative change. Take the claims about its potential to produce more civil campaigns: “The system may give life to more strident candidates in the hopes of siphoning the ballots from extreme voters who will give second preference to the big party closest to”. them, ”Simon Waxman, a former Boston Review editor, wrote in 2016.“ This could result in greater courtesy among candidates from major parties as more marginal competitors wipe the airwaves with attacks. Or it could produce strategic coalitions that shoot at each other, effectively leaving us where we started. “
It is also not uncommon in ranked choice races for candidates to use the system to cast doubt on the integrity of the elections, as mayoral candidate Eric Adams did: when two of his rivals won. campaigned against him together last weekend, Adams called the alliance groundless as an effort to deny black voters the right to vote. “No one is going to steal the election from me,” he said.
Such tactics reflect a problem less with preferential voting per se than with US politics. But they go to the heart of a broader critique of the push to pass it: When a democracy is in trouble, there aren’t many technocratic solutions to cure it.
“Amid a presidential campaign that has exposed deep and dangerous cracks in US politics, concerned citizens are turning to procedural minutiae as their savior,” Waxman wrote five years ago. “It’s hard to avoid the conclusion that voters are looking for such a simple solution that the problem is intimidating.”
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