New York’s hottest club is the invitation-only State Assembly hearing on ranked-choice voting in downtown Brooklyn Monday morning. It will have everything: frustrated lawmakers, an unreleased roster of witnesses, a pre-hearing protest press conference, and maybe even some voters.
The event is being hosted by the chamber’s Election Law Chair, Assemblymember Latrice Walker, and was scheduled shortly after the first set of ranked-choice voting primary results the New York City Board of Elections released included more than 100,000 erroneous test ballots, which forced the agency to retract and update the information a day later.
While the primary election once again raised questions about the conduct of the city BOE, the first hearing to unpack what happened will focus on the voter-approved ranked-choice voting system and feature an unknown list of witnesses picked by the Assembly based on a yet to be disclosed criteria. Walker’s office did not respond to multiple requests from Gothamist / WNYC for a list of witnesses.
Walker has signaled skepticism about how the city implemented ranked-choice voting, telling Gothamist WNYC last month that the BOE was not ready for the new system, which allowed voters to pick up to five candidates in order of preference. In particular, she was critical of their use of new tabulation software, which was not approved until weeks before the election.
The BOE also refused offers of assistance from the company that developed the software just weeks before the election.
Supporters of ranked-choice voting plan to rally outside ahead of the hearing, which was moved from its originally scheduled location at 250 Broadway in Manhattan to the NAB Theater at City Tech in downtown Brooklyn. Among those expected to attend are Assemblymember Jessica González-Rojas; City Council Member Antonio Reynoso, the new Democratic nominee for Brooklyn Borough president; and other City Council candidates and community-based organizations that support the new system.
Organizers point to exit polling conducted by Edison Research on behalf of Common Cause NY, a proponent of ranked-choice voting, which found that 95% of voters said RCV ballots were simple to complete and 83% of voters ranked at least two candidates on their ballots in the mayoral primary. They also point to the expected majority of women and people of color in the incoming City Council.
The hearing Monday will not be the only opportunity for lawmakers to hear from the public about how the June primaries were conducted. State Senator Zellnor Myrie has scheduled another series of hearings focused on how the Boards of Elections across the state operate. The first will be held at Medgar Evers College in Brooklyn on Wednesday, July 28th.