By Sam Bojarski | Sam@haitiantimes.com

New York City’s ranked-choice voting system, launched this year, gives voters the opportunity to choose five candidates in order of preference, on their ballots. To help Haitian-American voters prepare for this change, a coalition of nonprofits and elected officials are hosting a ranked-choice voting training on March 9, at 7 p.m. 

Efforts to prepare the community for ranked-choice voting have already begun. Last month, Haitian American Caucus (HAC) staff discussed the change during a show on Radio Soleil and held a training session specifically for community leaders. The March 9 session, presented by Rank the Vote NYC, is open to the public. The virtual presentation in English and Creole is sponsored by multiple nonprofits, including HAC and the Haitian Roundtable.

“Because we have such a large group of nonprofit organizations participating it will be a great way to ensure that we are reaching members of the community,” said Rosemonde Pierre-Louis, a Rank the Vote NYC board member and chair of the Haitian Roundtable, in a February interview. 

The March 9 event will likely be the first of several public events on ranked-choice. 

“We will continue to think strategically as we can, as a collective, to make sure people in the community who are Haitian are familiar with ranked-choice voting,” Pierre-Louis said. 

HAC Executive Director Samuel Pierre and Haitian Roundtable Vice Chair Patrick Lespinasse will moderate the March 9 event. District 45 Council Member Farah Louis is scheduled to deliver opening remarks. 

A city-trained representative with knowledge of ranked-choice voting will conduct the presentation, which will be translated into Haitian Creole, said HAC Director of Operations Elisha Pierre. He did not have a specific name to share, for the representative. 

Prospective voters can view a sample ballot and receive instruction on how to fill it out. The March 9 presentation also covers how votes are counted and which races are impacted by ranked-choice voting in 2021, Pierre said. 

In the ranked-choice voting system, the candidate with the fewest votes is eliminated if no single candidate receives more than 50% of first-choice votes. Then, voters who indicated the eliminated candidate as their top choice can have their votes allocated to the next-highest-ranked candidate on their ballot. This process continues until a candidate receives more than 50% of the votes and is thus determined the winner. 

Ranked-choice voting applies to special and primary elections for mayor, public advocate, city comptroller, borough president and city council. The citywide primary election is scheduled for June 22. 

Leaders of nonprofits and professional associations – including Haitian American Business Network, Haitian-American Community Coalition, Diaspora Community Services, Haitian American Nurses Association and Haitian American Lawyers Association – received their own ranked-choice training last month. 

These groups can now promote ranked-choice voting information and events to their specific subset of the Haitian community, Pierre said. Future education efforts will be informed, at least in part, by the March 9 event. 

“We want to hear the feedback from this specific event, to see if there needs to be a different level of training,” Pierre said. “So we wanted to see what this event produced, and then we’ll kind of go back to the drawing board.” 

Click here to register for the March 9 ranked-choice voting event. 

Sam Bojarski

Sam is a reporter for The Haitian Times and a 2020 Report for America fellow. He has covered Haiti and its diaspora since 2018. His work has also appeared in USA Today, the Pittsburgh Tribune-Review and...

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