City Council Approves Bill for Simplify Ranked Choice Voting Ballot

By Alicia Venter

[email protected]

 

The New York City Council voted to approve Intro 696, a bill intended to simplify the ballot used in Ranked Choice Voting elections, on Wednesday, Dec. 7.

In Ranked Choice Voting elections, voters can rank up to five candidates in order of preference instead of casting their vote for only one individual.

New York City uses ranked choice voting in primary and special elections for local offices, with the first Ranked Choice Voting election being held on Feb. 2, 2021 in a special election for Queens Council District 24.

According to the legislation, introduced by Flushing Council Member Sandra Ung, the bill would ensure the following:

  • Contests on the same ballot page are separated from one another in a bold black lines
  • Non-english text can be easily compared to the corresponding English text
  • Each language on the ballot is clearly separated and visually distinct
  • To the extent practicable, instructions regarding ranked choice voting appear in black font on a white background

The bill will specifically replace the form language that the Board of Elections uses for the instructions on Ranked Choice Voting ballots with clearer language using fewer words.

“New Yorkers pulled off the largest Ranked Choice Voting election in the history of the U.S. when they went to the polls in last year’s June primary,” said Ung in a statement. “This new law will simplify the ballot and make it easier to understand, encouraging all voters, especially those with limited English proficiency, to take advantage of the opportunity to rank their preferred candidates and strengthen the democratic process. I want to thank my colleagues in the City Council for passing this legislation, and look forward to these common sense ballot changes being implemented in time for the June 2023 primaries.”

Common Cause, a watchdog group that was one of the founders of Rank the Vote NYC, praised the bill.

Rank the Vote NYC was founded in 2019 to bring Ranked Choice Voting to the city. As it is now part of the electoral process, the group now serves to educate voters and the community on the upcoming changes to local elections.

“Common Cause/NY is thrilled that the City Council swiftly voted and passed Councilwoman Ung’s bill which will build on the successes of Ranked Choice Voting and make the ballot even more voter friendly,” said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY and Board Chair of Rank the Vote NYC said in a statement. “Ranked choice voting affords voters more choice and more voice and puts power back in the hands of the people, delivering consensus majority winners every time.”

According to an exiting poll conducted by Edison Research through early voting and on Election Day in 2021 (June 12 – June 22) , 83 percent of voters ranked at least two candidates on their ballots in the mayoral primary, and 77 percent of New Yorkers want Ranked Choice Voting in future elections.

The City Council also voted to approve Intro 698, a bill introduced by Ung to codify the Public Service Corps, which will require the Department of Citywide Administrative Services to recruit students from diverse backgrounds and offer internships at a broad range of city agencies.

Community leaders celebrate Women’s History Month

As Women’s History Month comes to a close, Queens residents came together at C Restaurant and Lounge in Kew Gardens to celebrate and honor women’s achievements.

Rahana Rampershad, co-founder of WE RULE, and Rose Deonarine, founder of ReadySetRose, collaborated to make the event “I am Every Woman, We are Every Woman” a safe space for women in the community to network, celebrate other women’s milestones and self-reflect on their own journeys.

Both hailing from Richmond Hill, Rampershad and Deonarine’s respective organizations focus on highlighting stories of female founders and inspiring and educating the masses, which is what motivated them to localize those missions through the event.

“The goal of our event was to inspire and encourage each other to be better versions of ourselves. The name itself ‘I’m every woman, we are every woman’ and the lyrics by Whitney Houston represent that we as women are the embodiment of so many beings,” Deonarine said. “So when we say that phrase, it’s to be inclusive of all the other women in the room.”

“We did not want it to be about us or government officials, we wanted to make sure it was very inclusive. Everybody had a little piece to play in the room,” Rampershad said.

“There were people at the event that we met for the first time, and they were the first ones to message us and ask when the next event was,” she continued. “It was very powerful.”

Ebony Young, Queens deputy borough president; Vjola Isufaj, chief of staff for Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar; and Mone’t Schultz, deputy chief of staff for Assemblyman Khaleel Anderson showed their support at the event.

Jyoti Bindra, owner and manager of Vikhyat USA in Richmond Hill, was presented with a citation from Assemblywoman Jenifer Rajkumar’s office to honor her contributions to the community during the height of the pandemic.

While the main specialty of Vikhyat USA is providing customers with customized Indian attire, Bindra and the shop’s 70-year-old seamstress worked together to sew masks and distribute them around the U.S. for free during a time where they were in high demand.

“It was so encouraging for her, and it brought her to tears,” Deonarine said of Bindra. “She runs this business with her mom and they depend on it for survival, and yet she did this out of the goodness of her heart and possibly saved lives. That’s why we had this event in March, to celebrate women, whose rights have been oppressed for several years. We’re finally getting our voices heard and we have a long way to go, but on that day we just wanted to celebrate us.”

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Sliwa aims to ‘Save the Senate’

His bid for mayor fell short, but that doesn’t mean Curtis Sliwa is going to sit on the sidelines in 2022.
Sliwa announced this week that he is forming the “Save the Senate” Super PAC aimed explicitly at defeating Senator Chuck Schumer. First elected to the Senate in 1998, Schumer is seeking a fifth term.
“I am more committed than ever to advancing our Republican values and priorities and holding liberal elitists accountable for failing New York and America,” Sliwa says on the website’s mission statement. “Next up: Senator Chuck Schumer.”
Sliwa says he plans to raise millions of dollars through the political action committee, which will in turn be used to promote and help elect a Republican challenger to the Senator Majority Leader. Schumer has not faced a serious challenger in the last three elections.
“As senator, Schumer has delivered nothing more than Sunday press conferences with empty promises,” the website continued. “Between the rising cost of living, a broken healthcare system, struggling public schools, and lack of affordable housing, it is clear that Senator Schumer’s primary concern is keeping himself and his cronies in power.”
Bronx attorney and Albanian immigrant, Aleksander Mici, announced recently that he would seek to challenge Schumer on the Republican line. And Sliwa hasn’t totally ruled out throwing his red beret into the ring, but said he would only run as a last resort.
When Schumer was elected in 1998, he defeated Republican Al D’Amato. D’Amato is now a lobbyist, and recently told the Post that Schumer is virtually unbeatable. The senator visits every county in the state every year, and is a fundraising powerhouse.
Heck, D’Amato even endorsed the man who replaced him during the 2016 election.
As for the aforementioned Siena College poll, voters were also asked how they feel about Schumer. Among Democrats, 70 percent said they had a favorable view of the job Schumer was doing, while only 20 percent of Republicans polled could say the same.

Hochul in control

At this point, it looks like it’s Kathy Hochul’s job to lose.
According to a Siena College poll released this week, the current governor holds a double-digit lead over her next closest challenger, Attorney General Letitia James.
In a survey of registered Democrats, if the primary were held today, 36 percent said they would vote for Hochul to represent the party in next year’s general election, while 18 percent said they backed James.
Public Advocate Jumaane Williams would get 10 percent of the vote, while Mayor Bill de Blasio and Congressman Tom Suozzi would each get 6 percent of the vote. Twenty-four percent said they are undecided or back another candidate, which means there’s still plenty of undecided voters out there for the candidates to sway.
Suozzi announced his intent to run last week, turning down an offer by mayor-elect Eric Adams to join him at City Hall and serve as deputy mayor.
Suozzi’s decision reportedly upset some in the Democratic Party, who would prefer that he focus on re-election to Congress, especially after the GOP did much better than expected in local races in Suozzi’s current congressional district, which includes parts of Queens and Nassau County.
With Suozzi focused on running for governor, the seat could be vulnerable to being flipped by Republicans, who are focused on taking back the majority in the House next year.
There was also speculation that Suozzi and the governor would be competing for the same voters, namely conservative-leaning Democrats, making it harder for her to win re-election and opening the door for a progressive candidate like James or Williams.
As for now, it doesn’t look like Hochul has to worry about that, but there’s still a long way to go until the June primary.

Suozzi’s folly

Dear Editor,
I couldn’t believe the shortsightedness and purely narcissistic comments Congressman Thomas Souzzi made about running for governor.
Regarding Congress, he said “I’m hoping we win the majority again and we may not, it doesn’t matter. I’m running for governor.”
It doesn’t matter? The GOP taking over the House with Kevin McCarthy, who denies the treasonous attack of January 6 and shows no respect for the rule of law, as speaker doesn’t matter?
The same Kevin McCarthy who was against the infrastructure legislation that will provide jobs for New York State? That doesn’t matter because Suozzi wants the job he was made for?
I have news for you Mr. Suozzi, things are bigger than you. To say that it “doesn’t matter” makes Suozzi yet another Democrat like Senator Joe Manchin, who will sabotage the goals of a sitting Democratic president.
Yes it does matter, how can it possibly not?
Sincerely,
Stew Frimer
Forest Hills

Pandemic predators

Dear Editor,
I’m shocked by accusations that “nonprofit” hospitals sued patients and filed liens against their homes during the COVID crisis, despite receiving state emergency funds.
The Coalition for Affordable Hospitals, a group of labor unions, claims that 55 hospitals sued nearly 4,000 patients for medical debt while getting over $442 million from the state’s Indigent Care Pool.
These pandemic predators exploited taxpayers and patients out of sheer greed. Among the worst culprits, says the Coalition, is Northwell Health, New York’s largest hospital system a biggest private employer with 23 hospitals, 650 outpatient facilities and more than 70,000 staffers.
Its president & CEO, Michael Dowling, got a total compensation exceeding $4 million last year, ten times higher than President Joe Biden’s salary. Not bad for the head of an enterprise designated as a “nonprofit, tax exempt” organization by New York State and the federal government.
In television commercials, hospitals portray themselves as compassionate lifelines to their communities. But their bottom line takes top priority in real life.
They are nonprofit profiteers who violated a basic mandate of medicine: “First, do no harm.” State leaders and regulatory agencies must probe and penalize them for financial abuse.
Sincerely,
Richard Reif
Kew Gardens Hills

Dem vs. GOP debt

Dear Editor,
Dispatcher Larry Penner is upset that President Joe Biden’s Infrastructure Bill will add $595 billion to the deficit over the next ten years.
The bill will put $110 billion into roads, bridges and other major projects, $66 billion into freight and passenger rail, $39 billion into public transit systems, $65 billion into expanding broadband, a priority after the coronavirus pandemic left millions of Americans at home without effective internet access, and $55 billion into improving water systems and replacing lead pipes.
It will also increase funding for seniors in regards to vision, hearing and dental care, fight climate change, curb prescription drug prices, and increase funding for veterans.
Was Mr. Penner equally as upset when Donald Trump’s tax cuts for millionaires and billionaires added $3.9 trillion to the deficit? Of course not.
Here is the difference when it comes to Republicans and Democrats in regards to the deficit: Reagan took the deficit from $70 billion to $175 billion, Bush 41 took it to $300 billion, Clinton got it to zero.
Then Bush 43 took it from zero to $1.2 trillion, while Obama halved it to $600 billion despite Republican obstructionism at every turn. When Trump left office the deficit was $27 trillion!
Just to be clear, Biden increased the deficit to help the citizens of the United States. Trump increased the deficit so that the wealthy could buy a new yacht.
Sincerely,
Robert LaRosa, Sr.
Whitestone

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