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Little known special election for New York City council

by Amy Ngai // Published June 4, 2008
Last week, FairVote held meetings with voting advocates and good government organizations to discuss electoral reform in New York City. Among the slate of measures recommended, one reform- instant runoff voting for city council vacancies seemed particularly timely considering the special election held earlier this week.

On Tuesday, fewer than 6500 voters headed to the polls in Queens to elect a new City Council representative- the seat was recently vacated by the former council member after pleading guilty to two misdemeanors. With four prominent candidates in the race (including a former council member, an elections commissioner and a cousin of a congress member) the early election results reflect the fractured sentiments of the community. Anthony Como has the apparent lead with 31.7% of the vote; the next highest vote getter Elizabeth Crowley has 30.7%, with a mere 70 votes between them. In third, Thomas Ognibene with 27.3% followed by newcomer Charles Ober with 10% of voter support. The Board of Elections has yet to tally the 196 absentee ballots and potentially more valid absentee ballots if received by next Tuesday.

With instant runoff voting (where the lowest vote getter is eliminated and the votes transferred to the voter's second choice until a candidate receives a majority), the special election results could have been more decisive. Although special elections in the City Council are nonpartisan in nature (the City Charter bars running on the ballot under established political parties), Como and Ognibene are both republicans. Those voters who chose Ognibene would most likely select Como as their second choice, effectively giving the Como the majority necessary to win the election outright.

For those interested in more analysis on the city council special election in District 30 visit Gotham Gazette's coverage Another Special Election