Friday, May 4, 2018

NYC Elected Officials and Advocates Push for Instant Runoff Voting

Press Conference, Photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette

Several Prominent New York City Democratic Elected Officials and Voting Reform Advocates on Tuesday Assembled outside City Hall to call for, Instant Runoff Voting (IRV) also called Ranked-Choice Voting (RCV), in Citywide Primary Elections, for Mayor, Public Advocate, and Comptroller. Specifically, they said that Mayor Bill de Blasio’s Charter Revision Commission, which just began a Series of Public Hearings across the City, should include it among the Proposals it puts before Voters on the Ballot this November.

IVR/RCV allows Voters to Rank Primary Candidates in Order of Preference so that if One Candidate does not Cross the required Threshold for Victory, currently 40%, the Candidate with the least Number of Votes is Eliminated and the Votes are Redistributed based on the Second Choice selected by Voters who had Selected the Eliminated Candidate First, and so on until a Winner emerges. The system prevents what can be Costly and Labor-intensive Runoff Elections for the Top-Two in the First Round.

Though Prior IRV/RCV Proposals originating in the City Council have Failed, the group of Electeds and Advocates sought to Seize on an Opportunity presented by the Mayor’s creation of the Charter Revision Commission. The Commission, which is holding Hearings across the Five Boroughs to Solicit Public input as to what its Agenda should be, can consider any Proposal presented to it, though de Blasio charged its Members with particularly looking at Voting Access and Campaign Finance Reform. Its Recommendations will take the Form of Ballot Referenda to be offered to Voters in this Year’s General Election.

“Cities that have adopted instant runoff voting to eliminate runoffs have not only saved millions of dollars but have also improved their democracies by making sure that we are electing our leaders in an election where the most voters, the most diverse voters, are at the polls at one time,” said Grace Ramsey, Deputy Outreach Director for FairVote, a Nonpartisan Advocacy Group, at the News Conference. Ramsey noted that 15 Cities across the Country have already implemented IVR/RCV. A FairVote Analysis of the 2013 Public Advocate Runoff also showed that the Democratic Primary Runoff Electorate was Older, Whiter, and Wealthier than Democrats Overall, and only reflected a 7% Turnout. It occurred on Tuesday, October 1st, 2013.

Attending Elected Officials

Public Advocate Letitia James
Comptroller Scott Stringer
Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams
City Council Members: Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso, and Ben Kallos
Democratic Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections Douglas Kellner

In December, Douglas Kellner, the Democratic Co-Chair of the New York State Board of Elections, testified before the City Council on the 2017 Elections and warned them that they had “dodged a bullet” by narrowly avoiding a Runoff in the Mayoral Primary for the Reform Party line. Kellner said at the News Conference that the State already has the Technology and Capability to implement IRV/RCV, and reiterated the Cost Savings associated with Implementing the system.

As the Group was gathered at City Hall, a Parallel Voting Reform effort was being advanced in the State Capital as well. The State Senate Democrats, led by Senator Andrea Stewart-Cousins, unveiled a New Report highlighting the Shortcomings of the State’s Election system that led to an Abysmally Low Voter Turnout in the 2016 Presidential Election. They also released an Accompanying Package of Bills to Address Voter Access and Participation. The Conference is in the Minority, though, and there is limited likelihood that the Republican Majority will advance the Reforms being sought, such as Early Voting.

NYC Wins When Everyone Can Vote! Michael H. Drucker
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