Tuesday, May 1, 2018

NYC Elected Officials and Advocates Call for Instant Runoff Voting

Public Advocate Tish James, NYC Comptroller Scott Stringer, Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, and Council Member Brad Lander Join Call on Mayoral Commission to support IRV

Grace Ramsey, Deputy Outreach Director for FairVote, calls on the Mayoral Commission to consider Instant Runoff Voting.

   On the steps of City Hall, New York City elected officials and advocates today call on the Mayoral Charter Revision Commission to implement instant runoff voting. The group, convened by FairVote, a national nonpartisan electoral reform organization, assert this reform is an important step in giving voters a greater voice in elections and bringing more fair representation to city government.

Used in 15 American cities, instant runoff voting (IRV) improves voter turnout over traditional “delayed runoff” systems, saves taxpayer money, and rewards candidates who reach out to more voters. Because voters are allowed to rank candidates, the system is called “ranked choice voting” in some cities using it like Minneapolis, San Francisco and Oakland.

Photo: An example of what an IRV ballot would look like in a City Council election.

With IRV as proposed in New York City, voters will rank candidates in order of preference. If a candidate earns more than half of the votes - that is, more than half of first choices - then that candidate wins. If not, all but the top two vote-getters are eliminated, and ballots from the eliminated candidates go to the runoff finalist who is ranked next on each ballot. The winner will earn a majority of the instant runoff vote in this head-to-head contest without voters having to vote a second time.

After the runoff for Public Advocate in 2013, which cost the city $13 million and saw a turnout of only 6.9 percent, elected officials and advocates agree on the need for reform. At today’s public event, speakers touted the benefits of IRV. If a system like IRV were implemented, voters electing government leaders would be more reflective of the city’s racial and ethnic makeup as older, whiter and wealthier voters are more dominant in runoffs. IRV in other cities has shown to give more power to racial minorities and low-income communities.

For additional data on New York City Democratic Primary runoff turnouts, click here

Mayor Bill de Blasio announced during his annual State of the City that the Mayoral Charter Revision Commission would be focusing on campaign finance reform, as well as voting reform, and held its first meeting last week. The commission has the power to increase voter participation by including IRV as a charter amendment on the November ballot.

“It is clear that instant runoff voting increases democracy for all voters and for the voices of communities of color. The voters electing their leaders will be more reflective of the city’s racial and ethnic makeup because older, whiter and wealthier voters are more dominant in the old-fashioned, delayed runoffs. IRV is a proven, common-sense, fiscally responsible means to increase voter participation and ensure all views are respected,” said Rob Richie, executive director at FairVote.

“We must make it easier for New Yorkers to elect those who represent them,” said Public Advocate Letitia James. “Instant runoff voting not only makes elections more accessible, but also saves taxpayers millions of dollars. This is a simple solution to make voting more democratic, and ensure that the voices of all New Yorkers are heard equally.”

“Run-off elections take up time and resources – even though most voters don’t participate in them. We need the broadest possible coalition of New Yorkers voting in our elections, rather than a few party faithful. And we cannot afford to be wasting tens of millions of dollars on rounds of elections that people don’t participate in,” said New York City Comptroller Scott M. Stringer. “There’s a better, tried-and-true way – instant runoff voting. It’s a system that saves taxpayers and increases voter turnout. It’s a common sense reform that leaders at all levels of government should embrace for New York City.”

“I support instant runoff voting because it enhances the voice of the people while saving taxpayers money. As the charter review process gets underway in the weeks ahead, I look forward to advancing a meaningful dialogue about this progressive policy. We have a golden opportunity to implement electoral reforms that expand engagement in our democracy, particularly in communities who have historically faced underrepresentation,” said Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams.

“Instant runoff voting (IRV) is a win-win-win,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “It increases voter participation. It makes our elections more inclusive, by encouraging all candidates to reach out to all communities. And it will save the city millions of dollars,” said Councilmember Brad Lander. “It is time for New York City to make this switch to a more democratic and fiscally responsible system. I’m proud to join Fair Vote, Public Advocate Tish James, Comptroller Scott Stringer, good government organizations, and many of my Council colleagues in calling on the Charter Revision Commission to include IRV as part of its deliberations, and to develop a ballot proposal to bring to the voters in November.”

“New York City’s current scanning voting machines, the ES&S DS-200 can easily be programmed to handle instant runoff voting. Minneapolis uses the same voting scanners as New York City and has very successfully managed the switch to instant runoff voting,” said Douglas Kellner, Co-Chair of New York State Board of Elections.


  The above ballot was used in New York City for School Board elections which were eliminated after years of use. One problem is that when people rank their choices their vote will sometimes go to a candidate which was not a top preference. This creates a false percentage of vote received since a second, third. fourth or even lower choice is counted as a first choice vote. That happens when candidates other than the top two vote getters are eliminated, and the vote is dropped down to the higher of the two remaining candidates in the run off. 

  This system encourages candidates to work together so that if one is eliminated those votes would then drop down to the other candidate in the race. That creates a false winner since all one would have to do is make it into the run off, and have enough votes dropped down to them to win. Thus the candidate who receives the most votes under the minimum needed to win could and would lose the race with the drop down system rather than winning in a one-on-one run off election. 

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