Having worked and been involved in politics for many years, when an election comes around, especially a local election, people often stop me in shul or on the street and ask, “Who should I vote for?” With a special election coming up on February 2 to fill the 24th City Council seat vacated by Rory Lancman, it is that time again.
What makes this special election different? The answer is Ranked-Choice Voting. There are eight candidates running in this special election and I personally know two of them, Jim Gennaro, who previously held this seat, and Dilip Nath. Both share our community’s values and for purposes of full disclosure, I have endorsed my friend and client for over 20 years, Dilip Nath.
Everyone is so busy that most people do not take the time to fully research important issues. Ranked-Choice Voting is one of those issues. When was Ranked-Choice Voting instituted, how does it work, and why was it instituted?
Ranked-Choice Voting in New York City was overwhelmingly adopted as a ballot measure on November 5, 2019, and this is the first election it will go into effect. The way it works is that a voter gets to choose up to 5 different candidates, ranking them from 1 to 5. A voter can decide to vote for only one candidate if he or she chooses, but doing so defeats the purpose of Ranked-Choice Voting. If one candidate gets over 50% of the number 1 votes, he or she wins the election. If not, the candidate with the lowest number of votes is eliminated and a second round of votes gets counted, whereby the eliminated candidate’s second choice votes gets distributed. Then a third, fourth, or fifth round of counting takes place if necessary, until there are only two candidates remaining. Of the two candidates remaining, the one with most votes wins.
A number of other cities use Ranked-Choice Voting, as does at least one state, and the theory is that it enables a voter’s vote to count, even if their number 1 candidate did not finish the initial round with the most number 1 votes. Presumably, this enabled more women and women of color to be elected to office in those cities and state.
Why is this important to our community? It is important for a number of reasons. First, it will enable our community to get members of our community elected, and second, it will enable our community to help elect candidates who are not from our community but who share our values - namely, the free exercise of religion, law and order, lower taxes, etc. That is what is at stake in this election. My concern is that if neither Gennaro nor Nath gets elected, we will end up with someone who will not aid our community, which needs much help in these trying times. I can cite numerous recent examples where our community has been under attack, for lack of a better term, from our City and State bureaucracies.
I have been a registered Democrat my entire adult life, but unfortunately, the Democrat party is in a bitter struggle with the Progressive Left wing of the party. The Progressive Left, for the most part, not only does not share our community’s values but it works against our values. In politics, there is value in numbers. The Jewish community is by no means monolithic in its religious or voting practices. In total, we are a small percentage of the population and we used to be sufficiently represented by Jewish elected officials at the federal, state and local levels of government. I worked in the New York State Senate from 1993 to 2004, first for Senator Emanuel Gold and then for Senator Seymour Lachman. Senator Lachman was the President of the National Association of Jewish Legislators (NAJL) and we were in contact with Jewish legislators from all across the US, Canada and countries around the world. We discussed issues like these that were of concern to the Jewish community. To illustrate my point, during the time that I worked at the Senate, there was a 36% drop in the number of Jewish Senators in New York State. We found similar trends in other legislative bodies and that trend has not reversed itself. Our community needs to work together to ensure that we are properly represented in government, and we have an opportunity to do that with this special election come February 2 by voting for people who share our values.