Confused by NYC’s Ranked-Choice Mayoral Primary? Practice With Bagels

Confused by NYC’s Ranked-Choice Mayoral Primary? Practice With Bagels

When New Yorkers vote in the city’s primaries in June, it will be the city’s first major use of a balloting system called ranked-choice voting. The process lets voters list up to five candidates in order of preference, instead of picking just one candidate.

A candidate must get more than 50% support to win. If no one hits that threshold, the candidate with the fewest votes will be eliminated. The ousted candidate’s votes get redistributed to the voters’ second choices. That will continue until only two candidates remain.

Proponents say that the ranked-choice method gives voters a greater say in who gets elected and that it encourages candidates to appeal to a broad set of voters. But critics say that the system can be confusing.

Ranked-choice voting has grown in popularity and has expanded to dozens of U.S. cities and some statewide elections, according to FairVote, an organization that promotes ranked-choice voting. New York City’s primary will be the largest U.S. election to use ranked-choice voting, representing a major test for the method.

San Francisco and Oakland are two California cities that have been using ranked choice for years. In the 2018 special election for San Francisco mayor, London Breed was leading after the first round, but no candidate had the majority of votes. After additional rounds of tallying, Ms. Breed was named the winner.

San Francisco
mayoral special election 2018


Write-in Antoine P. Rogers


Write-in Antoine P. Rogers

Slide for previous rounds

Source: San Francisco Department of Elections

Usually the candidate who is leading after the first round of tallying wins, but not always. In Oakland’s 2010 mayoral race, Don Perata led after the first round but didn’t have the majority of votes. So, after additional rounds, Jean Quan was found to have received more votes and ultimately won the election.

Oakland mayoral election 2010


Larry Lionel “LL” Young Jr.


Larry Lionel “LL” Young Jr.

Slide for previous rounds

Source: Official Election Site of Alameda County


We created a sample ranked-choice election based on the New York City primary ballot. But instead of choosing between mayoral candidates, we are asking you to rank your favorite bagel orders. Once you vote, we will show you how the rounds are calculated. To get sample data, we conducted an informal poll among our co-workers.

Meet the candidates

Cast your ballot to see which bagel order is the majority’s choice.

Note: By submitting a ballot your vote is recorded anonymously. No personal data will be collected. While real ballots vary by jurisdiction and can be more complicated, this is designed to help you practice. For more information about the rules for filling out your ballot, contact your local election official or visit the website
Bagel Choice1st Choice2nd Choice3rd Choice4th Choice5th

Rank up to 5 choices. Mark no more than 1 oval in each column.

Don’t forget to vote!

Rank up to 5 choices.

You can only rank one bagel per column.

Do not mark more than one oval per column. According to the NYC Board of Elections, if you do, your vote may not count.

You can only vote for each bagel once.

If this was a real election, only your highest ranking for this candidate would count.

You can only vote for each bagel once.

If this was a real election, only your highest ranking for this candidate would count.

You skipped a column.

For our sample ballot, please don’t skip a column, even though that may be OK in a real election.

Counting the votes

We added your ballot to the votes we collected from the WSJ newsroom. In the first round, only first choices are counted.

Results round

No bagel received a majority of the first-choice votes so we can’t proclaim a winner yet.

The bagel with the fewest number of votes is eliminated.

We look at the ballots that had cinnamon raisin as their first choice and redistribute the votes to their second-favorite bagels.

The last-place bagel is eliminated again.

This process — redistributing an eliminated bagel’s votes — repeats until there are only two candidates left.

The last-place bagel is eliminated again.

The rounds progress even after a bagel has won over 50% of the votes.

Doing the maximum number of rounds provides more transparency about voters’ preferences.

Doing all the rounds provides a better picture of a winning candidate’s support, said Rob Richie, FairVote’s president and CEO.

With X% of the votes

X votes


Runner up

X% X votes of the votes

Primary day is June 22. Early voting begins June 12. Full results won’t be available on election night, and could take a few weeks depending on how close the races are, said Frederic Umane, president of the New York City Board of Elections and one of the Republican commissioners.

Write to Roque Ruiz at, Juanje Gomez at and Alexa Corse at

Copyright ©2020 Dow Jones & Company, Inc. All Rights Reserved. 87990cbe856818d5eddac44c7b1cdeb8

Source: WSJ – US News

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