by John Zogby, Commentary, Albany Times Union

New York City voters are just coming off a highly successful election that saw the ascendancy of former Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams to the position of mayor. What made the election so historic is that for the first time in city history, voters exercised the option to use ranked-choice voting to select their leader.

Voters were allowed to vote for just not one candidate but up to five candidates in the order of preference. With each new vote count, the bottom-ranked candidate was eliminated and votes were retallied. The process went off without a hitch, voters took the opportunity to make their multiple selections, and voter turnout was healthy.

According to our Unite NY/John Zogby Strategies poll right before the election, 70 percent of voters said they favored ranked-choice voting; 23 percent preferred the old model.

Unite NY has commissioned John Zogby Strategies to engage in a monthly series of polls to measure the readiness of statewide voters for several electoral reforms designed to offer more options for voters to assert authority. Regardless of which candidates are elected in November 2022 to lead and legislate the Empire State, they can expect that electoral reform will be high on their agenda, if voters get their way.

While Gov. Kathy Hochul currently enjoys substantial leads over her primary challengers and prospective general-election opponents, and has an overall approval rating of 59 percent, 51 percent of voters say that partisan politics has gotten worse in New York state since 2020. Only 37 percent feel that the state is headed in the right direction, and about half believe that politics in our state is heading on the wrong track – which includes 77 percent of Republicans, 58 percent of independents, and even 28 percent of Democrats. This includes majorities of voters upstate and in New York City’s suburbs.

About two in five statewide (39 percent) say they are “considering leaving New York to reside somewhere else” — up from 34 percent a month ago.

Importantly, the new Unite NY/John Zogby Strategies Poll showed that cynicism does not reign supreme. New York voters strongly support reforms:

  • 61 percent want legislation that “enables third parties to be on the general election ballot.”
  • 59 percent agree with the abolition of “dark money, i.e., non-profit organizations who do not have to disclose individual donors” to candidacies.
  • 60 percent are more likely to support a candidate who “runs to enact term limits for statewide elected officials.”
  • 48 percent are more likely to support a candidate for governor who “runs to make New York the 27th state to hold ballot initiatives,” whereby voters get to petition for issues to directly be placed on general-election ballots.
  • 52 percent favor “no-excuse ballots,” whereby ballots can be mailed directly to voters’ home without a statement defining a specific need.
  • 43 percent are more likely to support a gubernatorial candidate who “runs to establish open primaries,” which allows voters not registered in a political party to vote in a primary election (only 25 percent are less likely).

There appears to be a disconnect between voter sentiment in favor of political and election reform and the lack of discussion by New York state candidates.

There are plenty of issues to keep candidates and voters busy in 2022 — inflation, concern over war in Europe, the lasting impact of the COVID-19 pandemic, race, education, and climate change, just to name a few. But voters are telling us that something is seriously broken in New York and Albany and they clearly want reforms to be addressed.

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