Voices & Choices

City officials call for instant runoff voting in New York

City officials call for instant runoff voting in New York

At a press conference on the steps of City Hall, several New York City officials called on the Mayoral Charter Revision Commission to implement “instant runoff voting” (IRV, also known as ranked choice voting) for municipal elections. Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams, Public Advocate Letitia James, Comptroller Scott Stringer and City Council Members Brad Lander, Antonio Reynoso and Ben Kallos told reporters and advocates that reforming the system will save taxpayers money and lead to better elections.

Some of the advocacy groups represented at the event included NYPIRG, Citizens Union, Reinvent Albany and the Fiscal Policy Institute.

James supported IRV when she was running for public advocate in 2013, a race that resulted in a runoff election.

“I am the face of instant runoff,” James said. “Let me remind you. I won a runoff election to the office of public advocate in 2013. That runoff cost between some estimates [of] $10 to $13 million in the city of New York. That is more than my budget, not just in one year but in four years—my entire first term.” She added, IRV is the “least expensive, most democratic option” and pushes candidates to appeal to all voters beyond their base.

Adams said turning away from runoff elections is the right thing for the city to pursue.

“Let’s make sure that the runoff election’s a thing of the past and let’s do it in the right way,” Adams said. “This makes sense, it saves dollars and cents.”

Stringer said in his 2011 race for comptroller that only 11 percent of voters came out. The turnout for the runoff was even more meager – 8.4 percent – and cost taxpayers $15 million. He also said there are too many primaries in New York, noting a congressional primary in June, primaries in September, three more in 2020 as we1l as the runoff elections for municipal seats.

“That is why instant runoff is a progressive leap to try to get the most bang for the buck in the primary and settle everything on that day or into the night,” he said.

The event was convened by FairVote and also included remarks from Board Member Hendrik Hertzberg and Deputy Outreach Director Grace Ramsey, who noted the Mayor’s charter revision commission is an opportunity for the city to empower voters with a greater voice at the ballot box.

“We have an incredible opportunity in New York City to improve the way we run our elections,” Ramsey said. “With the formation of the Mayoral Charter Revision Commission, they’ve been charged with assessing current structures and looking for ways to increase the voice of the voters.”

FairVote issued a press release containing statements from the event speakers, as well as Executive Director Rob Richie.

“It is clear that instant runoff voting increases democracy for all voters and for the voices of communities of color,” Richie said. “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.”

Additional media coverage:

New York Daily News

New York Observer

Gotham Gazette

WCBS NewsRadio


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