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Reforming runoffs could boost turnout

Erik Engquist and Daniel Massey // Published October 18, 2009 in Crain's New York Business
State Sen. Liz Krueger says instant runoff voting would do more than save the expense of repeating elections when no candidate gets 40% of the vote. It would reduce negative campaigning and boost turnout, she says. Voters would rank candidates, and if no candidate wins a majority of No. 1 votes, the last-place finisher would be dropped and a new count made combining No. 1 and No. 2 votes, and so on until someone surpasses 50%.

“Candidates don't want to be seen as nasty [to rivals], because if they can't get your vote for No. 1, they want your vote for No. 2,” says Ms. Krueger, D-Manhattan.

She has a bill pending that would allow localities to implement instant runoff voting. The bill would not have affected the increasingly nasty mayoral race, but it could have elevated David Yassky over John Liu in the Sept. 15 Democratic primary for city comptroller. Turnout plunged in the runoff two weeks later, and Mr. Yassky lost by 12 points.