Ranked Choice State Of Mind | Crooked Media
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June 22, 2021
What A Day
Ranked Choice State Of Mind

In This Episode

  • New York City holds its mayoral primary, today, one of the highest profile elections since the presidential election and a super visible test of ranked-choice voting. Closing messages in the last days touched on police violence, public safety, economic recovery and more.
  • We spoke with Emma Fitzsimmons, City Hall Bureau Chief for the New York Times, about the four leading candidates, and we interviewed voters to get their perspective, too.
  • And in headlines: SCOTUS strikes down NCAA’s restrictions on antitrust violations, the Biden administration won’t be able to deliver 80 million COVID vaccine doses abroad on time, and Steven Spielberg and Netflix bury the hatchet and announce a movie distribution deal.





Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, June 22nd. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: And I’m Gideon Resnick, and this is What A Day, the podcast that requires you to show your coronavirus vaccine card to listen.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, not sure you guys knew, but we’ve been taking control of the cameras on your phones and you’re all good to go.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, this is a massive privacy violation by the way.


Akilah Hughes: Right. But who gonna stop us? Nobody. On today’s show, we give you an overview of one of the highest profile elections since the presidential election, then some headlines.


[clip of Andrew Yang] It’s almost voting time. Get out and vote on Tuesday. Let’s give New York City the kind of change we’ve been waiting for.


Akilah Hughes: OK, so that’s New York City’s mayoral candidate, Andrew Yang, talking to the outlet New York 1, campaigning on the last weekend before today’s primary. He is one of 13 in the running for the Democratic side alone. So Gideon, you’ve spent some time talking to other reporters, voters and people on the ground all about this. So what do we know about what’s on the minds of voters at the moment?


Gideon Resnick: A lot, it seems. So New York, of course, is just one city, but this is one of the first major elections the country has seen since coming out of the worst of the pandemic. And really in some ways, what this is about as a city looking for a leader, with Bill de Blasio on his way out after eight years, to help guide New York after COVID ravaged the community, and perhaps also a referendum on policing after a major movement last year. So what happens in New York could be really important for other Democratic politicians around the country. Now, for New Yorkers themselves, one of their biggest issues of late seems to be crime and public safety. That could definitely mean different things to different people, depending on who you ask. But it is a signifier to some on the left who are concerned that momentum around rethinking or defunding police has stalled since last year, or at least that a mayoral candidate representing those views isn’t a clear favorite. For example, a poll of voters by New York 1 from a few weeks ago, found that crime and public safety—kinda nebulous—displaced COVID-19 as the top concern for voters. Then, of course, there’s affordable housing, especially in the current economy, that is big on people’s minds as well. I spoke with Emma Fitzsimmons. She is the City Hall bureau chief for The New York Times who broke it down like this:


[clip of Emma Fitzsimmons] Candidates have talked a lot about affordable housing even before the pandemic. Bill de Blasio was talking about affordability, and people are really concerned that it’s just completely unaffordable to live in New York City. So that’s a big issue. And poverty also. I mean, that’s what Bill de Blasio ran on in 2013. He ran on A Tale of Two Cities and that he was going to address inequality. And he has in some ways but people feel like that promise is still unfinished.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. And that’s going to be a running issue for the rest of the country too. A recent housing report from Harvard found that nationwide the pandemic has only accelerated the housing inequality we have, with richer people being able to buy homes with savings, while those who are less well-off were locked out of the market because of higher costs.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so that brings us to the candidates. Give us a rundown on who they are and where they stand on all these big issues.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so we are going to focus on the Democratic candidates for now because the winner of that primary—shock surprise—is almost certainly going to be the next mayor. Sorry to spoil it.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah. [laughs]


Gideon Resnick: But over the last few days, we kind of saw closing messages that ran the gamut of issues: police violence, public safety, economic recovery, and what change actually means. So for now, there are four leading candidates heading into today, and Emma Fitzsimmons broke down their general pitches, and it was mostly about crime and safety.


[clip of Emma Fitzsimmons] So let’s start with Eric Adams. He is the front runner in the race. He is leading in the polling and he’s really focused on the public safety. He was out today, on Saturday, at the scene of a shooting incident in the Bronx. And he was talking about how everyone is worried about public safety. And so he’s really focused on that. He’s saying as a former police captain, he’s the only candidate who can both address this rise in violence and also reform the police department. And so he’s really sticking to that theme. Next up, we have Kathryne Garcia, the city’s former sanitation commissioner. She’s a moderate, but she’s really running on competence. She had a lot of different jobs in city government and she’s saying: I’m the crisis manager who can pull us out of the pandemic. Next up, we have Andrew Yang, the former presidential candidate. He started his campaign really wanting to be the city’s cheerleader, but in recent weeks, he’s focused on public safety as well. I think he realizes that New Yorkers are worried about crime and that that’s a message that he can try to bring home. So he was endorsed by the former police captains union, which is Eric Adams’ former union, and he’s saying the police captain support me as someone who can help bring down crime and so he’s he’s really focused on crime. But at the final debate, he received criticism because he said we really need to get mentally ill people off the streets, and people felt like that was insensitive. And then rounding out the top four, we have Maya Wiley, who has really become the progressive candidate in the race. She was endorsed by AOC and other progressive leaders, and two other candidates who are running against her in the left lane, their campaigns face setbacks and so now Maya is really the prominent progressive in the race, and that’s what she’s running on.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, so that’s a quick rundown. But to give all the candidates some shine here, some of the other people in the running: Scott Stringer, the former city comptroller, Diane Morales, a former nonprofit executive, and Shaun Donovan, who is a former housing secretary in the Obama administration.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so that’s what’s at stake, but Gideon, there’s an interesting other aspect of this election. This is one of the biggest stages for ranked choice voting in America. I mean, several other communities around the country may use it for local elections, but obviously none are as high profile or even have as many voters as New York City. So can you explain how that’s going to work, and if it might start a larger trend?


Gideon Resnick: I can definitely try the first. So we might have also heard this being called “instant runoff voting” if that’s what your flavor is. But basically, voters of the city are going to have an opportunity to rank up to five candidates in order of preference. If a candidate were to clear more than 50% of first choice votes in that first round, then that person wins and we can go to bed. If no one does, the person in last gets eliminated, then officials go back to the ballots of people who voted for that person, and then reassign the votes based on their second choice. And that’ll keep going with the people that are in last place until there are just two remaining candidates. Of those last two, the person in the lead wins.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, so we don’t know for sure, and I am not a mathematician. There are a lot of candidates in this primary, which means it’s probably pretty unlikely that anyone clears that 50% right away.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I mean, I am not a mathematician either, but I am going to agree with your assessment there, your math assessment. And that means we likely won’t know who won tonight. So here’s Fitzsimmons again:


[clip of Emma Fitzsimmons] Let’s say Eric Adams has received 20% of support among first choices, but they won’t actually run the rank choices until a week later. So we will know who’s ahead on election night, but it will take several weeks to figure out an official winner. A week after election night, they’ll run the rank choices for the first time. A week after that, they’ll run the same computer program with absentee ballots.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. So it’s possible there won’t be an official winner until July 12th.


Akilah Hughes: Oh, my gosh. So, I mean, hopefully it’s not as dire as the presidential election—we were up for an entire week. Hopefully you’re not up for three weeks straight. But, you know, just pace yourselves.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Pace yourselves out there. And, you know, rank choice has led to some strategic campaigning already, with Garcia and Yang campaigning together this past weekend and Yang explicitly telling voters to rank him first and then Garcia second. Eric Adams wasn’t happy about that and has been all over the place saying that it’s an effort to suppress Black voters.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, I just got to say, I think there are easier ways to suppress Black voters than giving them more options, or weirder options, in an election. But fine. On that note, what have voters had to say about this whole process?


Gideon Resnick: Yes. Some people are definitely liking the opportunity, but it does require a lot of research, especially if you do a full ranking for, say, controller, city council, some of the more local races. Here’s Nancy Ruddy, a voter in Brooklyn, telling me about the process for her:


[clip of Nancy R] I think we as New Yorkers are going to learn from this. I was definitely in there about three or four times longer than I do to vote. And you sort of feel a greater responsibility because you’re not just voting for one person, you’re voting for a series of positions and how they’ll be jockeying. So I think it’s going to be interesting for us to see how we feel about it. So I had tons of material at home, tons of material walking here, and so it made you learn more about many candidates, not just the candidate that you are going to be voting for.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, and here’s Kadija Hall and Adams supporter, who I spoke with at an event for the candidate.


[clip of Kadija H] There’s no fifth place winner. There’s no fourth place winner. There’s only a first-place winner. So, I mean, it’s something new to think about. I think pretty much people have their mind made up who their first and only choice is. I’m only going to like I said, I’m going to vote for two other people, but I think Adams has it in the bag.


Gideon Resnick: Well, we’ll see. We’re going to check back in on where things stand tomorrow. But if you are in New York City, please go vote. And if you’d like some resources to help you do so, we are going to link to them in our show notes. But that is the latest.


Akilah Hughes: It’s Tuesday, WAD squad, and today we are recommending more good stuff that will make you smarter, better and generally cooler. This is WAD recommends.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, today we have two comedy writers joining us, Travis Helwig, who, you know, as Crooked Media former head writer, the artist formerly known as. And Gonzalo Cordova, whose work you’ve seen on Tuca & Bertie and Jimmy Kimmel Live. They are the co-creators of Crooked’s brand new scripted podcast, Edith, starring Rosamund Pike, which is out now wherever you listen to podcasts, with new episodes dropping every Thursday. Welcome to the show, guys.


Gonzalo Cordova: Yeah, thank you for having us.


Travis Helwig: It’s good to be back.


Gonzalo Cordova: I don’t know where I am


Akilah Hughes: [laughs] We haven’t told you, so really just in people’s ears, like the magic school bus. All right. Well, let’s jump into it. What exactly is Edith, and what is one true reason that you think the WAD squad should check it out?


Gonzalo Cordova: Yeah. So Edith is the kind of true story of Edith Wilson, the first lady to Woodrow Wilson, who secretly took over the presidency for nine months while he was incapacitated due to a stroke. So there’s comedy, there’s drama. There’s, there’s, the real reason to check it out is if you want to hear Rosamund Pike be mean to people in your ears for 30 minutes at a time.


Akilah Hughes: I love that. That’s honestly . . .


Travis Helwig: It’s truly . . .


Akilah Hughes: It’s not even enough, you know. [laughs]


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. Make it an hour.


Travis Helwig: I think there’s people who dedicate their lives wanting to hear Rosamund Pike be mean to them. So I think this is for you.


Akilah Hughes: [laughs] Honestly, we love it.


Travis Helwig: I will, I want to give a sincere pitch on the show, which is I don’t like scripted podcasts usually. I really don’t listen to them. It’s not something I would seek out. You know me, I’m a WAD squad boy through and through. I used to write fast food jokes for Jo Lovett. That’s what I, that’s my passion. But I’m very excited about it. And I think it’s for people that are like, if you’re like me, I wouldn’t necessarily seek something out like this. I think you might enjoy it. And then if not, Rosamund Pike will be mean to you.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah. You’ve created ASMR for an entire generation of fans with this, which is an accomplishment in of itself.


Akilah Hughes: So if you play it low enough, yes. [laughs]


Gonzalo Cordova: You just have to play it real low. Super-duper low, that’s actually the preferred listening experience.


Akilah Hughes: Well, thank you so much for listening and considering our considerations. Thank you, Travis and Gonzalo, for being here. We’ll link the podcast in our show notes, and we’ll be back after some ads.


[ad break]


Akilah Hughes: Let’s wrap up with some headlines.


[sung] Headlines.


Gideon Resnick: The Supreme Court struck down the NCAA restrictions on compensation as antitrust violations yesterday. For 115 years, the NCAA maintained that college athletes should only receive reimbursement for the estimated cost of attending college. Yesterday’s decision OK’ed education-related benefits such as graduate scholarships and internships, but did not allow outright payment of salaries or endorsements. The association tried to argue that sports fans love the amateur aspect of college athletes. You know, I too only root for players with six figures of student loan debt and a meal plan that’s just ramen and Uncrustables. This is why we play. But proponents of the ruling say this will make a meaningful difference to student athletes, especially the ones who don’t plan on playing professionally.


Akilah Hughes: I don’t plan on playing professionally, so I’d like to also be [unclear]. The Biden administration will likely fall short of its goal to ship 80 million COVID vaccine doses abroad before the end of June. The White House announced a new outline for a global vaccine allocations yesterday, with 60 million shots going to Covax, the Global Vaccine Alliance, and 20 million going to specific partners. So far, less than 10 million doses have been shipped globally, including the 2.5 million that were delivered to Taiwan, and the one million doses delivered to Mexico, Canada and South Korea. Officials say they are seeing delays due to the U.S. and other countries’ legal, logistical and regulatory requirements, despite having all the doses ready to ship out.


Gideon Resnick: Man o man. The man who once suggested that Netflix movies shouldn’t get Oscars has changed his mind, and all it took was a global pandemic plus a dump truck full of money backed up to his house. Steven Spielberg will be partnering with the streaming giant through his production company, Amblin Partners, in a deal that was announced yesterday. Amblin will make multiple features per year for Netflix, but will still work with Universal Pictures to release a separate slate of films and theaters. A high-profile collaboration with the guy behind E.T., Jurassic Park, Hook, and pretty much every other movie where kids go on adventures, is a big get for Netflix, as it fends off competition from newer streamers like Disney+ and HBO Max.


Akilah Hughes: I mean, whatever you got to do, life comes at you fast. Raiders’ defensive end and five-year veteran of the NFL Carl Nassib made history yesterday as the first active player in his league to come out as gay. Nassib made the announcement in an Instagram video that was extremely efficient and truly did not waste a single word.


[clip of Carl Nassib] What’s up people? I’m Carl Nassib. I’m at my house here in Westchester, Pennsylvania. Just want to take a quick moment to say that I’m gay. I’ve been meaning to do this for a while now, but I finally feel comfortable enough to get it off my chest.


Akilah Hughes: Go off. All right. So a Nassib also said he wanted to promote a culture of acceptance and announced a $100,000 donation to the Trevor Project. Damn. Also in LGBTQ sports, New Zealand weightlifter Laurel Hubbard will compete in the Olympics in Tokyo, becoming the first openly transgender Olympian in history. As trans triathlete Chris Mosier pointed out online, the International Olympic Committee has had a policy for the inclusion of trans athletes since 2003. And since then, 54,000 thousand people have competed in the Olympics and not a single one of them was openly trans.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, I cannot wait for Republican politicians to react reasonably to all this news.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, well, they can stay mad. And those are the headlines.


Gideon Resnick: That is all for today. If you like the show, make sure you subscribe, leave a review, ride your bike into the sky with an extraterrestrial, and tell your friends to listen.


Akilah Hughes: And if you’re in the reading, and not just fictionalized biographies of first ladies like me, What A Day is also a nightly newsletter. Check it out and subscribe at Crooked.com/subscribe. I’m Akilah Hughes.


Gideon Resnick: I’m Gideon Resnick.


[together] And sorry for spying on your vaccine card!


Akilah Hughes: It’s just all these big companies get the spy. I just, I left left out.


Gideon Resnick: Yeah, we wanted to be like them, and have special powers.


Akilah Hughes: Yeah, just be close to y’all. But, all right. [laughs]


Akilah Hughes: What A Day is a production of Crooked Media.


Gideon Resnick: It’s recorded and mixed by Charlotte Landes.


Akilah Hughes: Sonia Htoon and Jazzi Marine are our associate producers.


Gideon Resnick: Our head writer is Jon Millstein, and our executive producers are Leo Duran, Akilah Hughes and me.


Akilah Hughes: Our theme music is by Colin Gilliard and Kashaka.