OPINION: Ranked choice voting will help women of color get elected

voting booths david brand.jpg

By Catalina Cruz

Without the political connections and the financial support of party machines, running for any political office is an uphill battle. And it’s even harder as an insurgent woman of color.

I would know, I’ve done it — and won. But Ranked Choice Voting can make it easier for the next generation.

Ranked Choice Voting allows voters to select their top five choices in New York City special and local elections, including Mayor, Borough Presidents, Comptroller, and City Council. If voters want to select one candidate, like they are used to, they can. The Board of Elections will tally the first round of votes, and if no candidate has received more than 50 percent of the vote (a majority) then the last place candidate is eliminated and the voters’ next choices are counted, and so on, until one candidate receives majority support.

 Ranked Choice Voting will help women of color get elected because it will eliminate the spoiler effect — meaning multiple similar candidates can run for office without fear of “stealing” votes from one another. I have seen in cities like San Francisco and Oakland, where Ranked Choice Voting already exists, women, and especially women candidates of color, win. According to a study done by Represent Women in 2016, people of color held 13 of the 18 seats in San Francisco elected, which is up from eight seats held before Ranked Choice Voting was adopted.

Assemblymember Catalina Cruz.  Eagle  file photo by Phineas Rueckert

Assemblymember Catalina Cruz. Eagle file photo by Phineas Rueckert

And not only has Ranked Choice Voting lead to more women and people of color like me winning, it also has broken down barriers for more candidates of color to run for office to begin with. According to a study done by FairVote, 11 California cities that use alternative vote systems, like ranked choice, saw an increase from 17.2% to 25.6% in candidates of color running for office. Ranked Choice Voting will make space for more people like us to engage in the political process and provide a voice for our communities.

The importance of candidates who look like and represent the members of their community cannot be overstated. For far too long women and people of color have been on the marginal outskirts of political decision-making because there were not enough people who looked like us representing us. We have the ability to change history by electing more women and people of color into office so that our voices are finally heard. Ranked Choice Voting and other progressive voting reforms can help elect these candidates into office.

Dozens of cities across the country use Ranked Choice Voting, and even in entire countries, such as Ireland and Australia. It’s time New York City has it too.

Don’t forget to flip your ballot and vote YES ON ONE this fall.

Catalina Cruz is a state assemblymember representing Assembly District 39 , which includes Corona, Elmhurst and Jackson Heights.