How To Be A Smarter Ranked-Choice Voter: Do’s and Don’ts

The nation’s largest test of ranked-choice voting is underway as New York City primary voters cast their ballots this month. Polls open for early voting which starts on Saturday and runs through the following Sunday, June 20th. If you’re a traditionalist—or you are still making up your mind about the order of your ballot—you can cast your vote on June 22nd, Primary Day.

The idea behind ranked-choice voting is pretty straightforward. Mayor Bill De Blasio made the point this week picking that items in order of preference is something that we do all the time. Here is his (highly questionable) pizza topping sample ballot.

Read More: We Practiced RCV To Elect The Greatest Fictional Mayor of NYC & To Determine The Greatest NYC Book

To make sure you are fully prepared to make your ballot count, Gothamist/WNYC spoke with Sean Duggar, the education campaign program director for Rank The Vote NYC. He’s originally from Oakland, California, where he’s been casting ranked-choice ballots for the last decade.

Here are some of the do’s and don’ts of ranked-choice voting:

DO go to the poll site with a plan

Voters can rank up to five candidates for mayor, comptroller, public advocate, city council, and borough president. That’s 25 people. Feel free to bring your voter guide or whatever cheat sheet you need to remember the candidates you want to rank.

Read More: Undecided In NYC’s Mayoral Race? Here’s A Guide To Help

DON’T pick more than one candidate for number 1 (or any other rank)

You will immediately spoil your vote for that contest if you pick more than one candidate as your top choice. If you are casting your ballot in person and you make this mistake, the ballot scanner will tell you there is an error on your ballot and ask you if you want to correct it. “If you hit yes, it spits your ballot back out and you have the opportunity to get up to two additional ballots to correct the mistake,” Duggar said.

However, if you push no, it will force the machine to accept the ballot with the error. That will mean your vote doesn’t count in that race, but it will count for any other race where the options are filled out correctly.

Obviously, if you are filling out an absentee ballot, there will be no machine to tell you you’ve made this mistake so be careful when you fill it out.

Bottom line: One candidate per rank.

DO try to rank as many candidates as you can live with because if you don’t, someone else will

“We encourage folks to rank as many candidates as possible, just in case the candidates that you have included on your ballot, don’t make it all the way through,” Duggar told Gothamist / WNYC.

“As we’ve seen in polling, candidates go up, candidates go down. Every round of polling is different. So you want to ensure that you continue to have a voice in the process as long as possible and that others don’t have a greater say in the process than you do, because they chose to completely utilize their rankings,” Duggar added.

In other words, pick the candidate you really want as your number one, then figure out which of the others wouldn’t drive you to leave the city.

DON’T include anyone you can not live with on your ballot

If you don’t want to help a candidate win, don’t put them on your ballot.

DO make sure you turn over your ballot so you don’t miss any of these contests

These are really big, sometimes multi-page ballots. Make sure you fill the whole thing out.

Read More: A Guide To All Those Other Races You’ll Be Voting For

DON’T try to rank your Manhattan District Attorney choice

This race IS NOT part of ranked-choice voting. Technically the district attorney is a state office, and ranked-choice voting is only for local offices. Pick one candidate.

DO know you are entitled to assistance

Any voter is entitled to bring someone into the poll site to assist them, if they are a voter with a disability or need language interpretation, as long as it’s not your employer or someone from your union.

DON’T get frustrated

This might feel a little different for some voters. Be patient with yourself and others. We will all learn a lot from this first citywide ranked-choice primary. Poll workers were required to get additional training for this election, but change can create challenges for everyone.

DO be patient

When polls close on June 22nd, the city Board of Elections will provide the unofficial election night returns, which will reflect the first-choice votes of people who cast their ballots during early voting and on Primary Day. Since many of these races are very crowded with candidates, there is a very strong likelihood that we will not know who won, assuming no candidate gets a majority of the vote. If that is the case, elections officials plan to run their initial ranked-choice tally of the ballots processed to date on June 29th, a week after the primary. Those results may mean a different candidate emerges as the frontrunner. But that tally will still be incomplete.

Officials say it will take until the week of July 12th to receive all eligible absentee and military ballots. Depending on how close the races are, it may take that long to know the winner.