Posted by Rich Robinson on May 01, 2018 at 12:01 PM


May 1, 2018

Contact: Jennifer Blatus, 212.239.7323 // [email protected]

Rich Robinson, 301.270.4616 // [email protected]

NYC Elected Officials and Advocates Call for Instant Runoff

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

NEW YORK -- 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.

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 would help eliminate the unfair advantage that older, wealthier voters have come to expect almost every election season. Every person should have an equal opportunity to have their voice heard. In the case of runoff elections, we have found that those living in low- income communities are not in the position to take time off of work to vote a second time. We need to implement real voter reform to ensure every vote matters. I am working hard in the Assembly to pass legislation at the state level to allow for IRV to be included in future elections," said Assemblyman Walter T. Mosley.

“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.”

“The 2013 citywide election in New York, which resulted in a runoff, only saw 26% voter turnout,” said Council Member Rafael Espinal. “We must do more to ensure people’s voices are included in every election and one of those strategies to do that includes Instant Runoff Voting. As California shows, this will save money on preventing costly runoffs, increase voter turnout, diversify the candidate pool and attract people to the polls. I am proud to support this effort.”

“Today I join my colleagues and good-government advocates in calling on the Mayor’s Charter Revision Commission to include Instant Runoff Voting in its deliberations,” said Council Member Antonio Reynoso. “New York City has a legacy of championing progressive and innovative policy, yet our current antiquated voter laws say otherwise—leading to elections that can be costly and exclusionary. Numerous localities across the country have already seen the benefits of IRV, and it is time that we brought them to NYC too.”

“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.

“Instant runoff voting isn’t just a better system, it’s also a cheaper system. How often do you get a chance to improve democracy and save money at the same time?" said David Dyssegaard Kallick, Deputy director of the Fiscal Policy Institute.

"Instant runoff voting is an idea whose time has arrived. It is increasingly being adopted across the country and here in NYC, presents a much needed solution to the low turnout and costly runoff election which disenfranchises military and overseas voters," said Alex Camarda, Senior Policy Advisor at Reinvent Albany. "When voters rank candidates all candidates appeal to every voter, resulting in a more substantive policy debate during the campaign and mitigates the partisan bickering that too often taints our campaigns and turns off citizens from participating in their democracy."

“Instant Runoff Voting is a great idea whose time has come for NYC. IRV will enfranchise countless thousands of absentee voters who simply can't participate in citywide runoffs due to the compressed two week timeline for the election. It will strengthen our democracy, help New York City to become a civic empowerment leader and save millions of taxpayer dollars. The Mayor's Charter Revision Commission should propose implementation of IRV for citywide municipal primaries starting in 2021, and require the city's Campaign Finance Board to report on its introduction, impact and potential for expansion in future elections,” said Megan Ahearn, Program Director at NYPIRG.

“With one of the lowest voter turnout rates in the country, New York City needs instant runoff voting,” said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director of Citizens Union. “The current process of holding run-off elections for citywide races leads to important political decisions being made with infinitesimal voter participation, a system that benefits no one. Instant runoff voting is a reform necessary to modernizing New York’s elections to more accurately represent the will of the electorate.”

FairVote has a proven record since 1992 as a nonpartisan trailblazer that advances and wins electoral reforms at the local, state, and national level through strategic research, communications and collaboration. Today it is the driving force behind advancing ranked choice voting as a means to open up elections to better choices, fairer representation and more civil campaigns.


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