By KEVIN LIMITI
A group of local politicians pushed on Thursday to implement rank voting in local elections, an electoral overhaul that would allow voters to rank their preferred candidates, thus insuring that the victor would have a majority.
A press conference on the steps of Federal Hall on Wall St. attracted local council-members, assemblyman, activists, and supporters who believed that rank voting would save money, allow more minority and women candidates a chance for victory, and help voters make decisions in what they consider a confusing and crowded electoral field.
Public advocate Jumaane Williams aid that rank voting would, “cost everybody less and empower the system more.”
Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer said that she was concerned that candidates were winning with less than a majority. “If voters approve this proposal then we can make sure our elected officials are chosen by the majority of voters,” Brewer said.
Rank voting would require candidates to win by a majority of five possible candidates with the fifth most popular candidate dropped when a front runner fails to achieve a majority.
Williams said that he himself got only 33% of the vote when he was elected. “It is imperative we get this done,” he added. “Our voting structure is not based in a way that increases participation. And I really think rank choice voting will make that happen. It increases the power of the vote, it encourages positive campaigning, and it allows candidates of color and women to be voted in.”
Assemblyman Ron Kim related that he had an, “army of young people to run,” but that they were being turned off by the political process. “Right now, the political system is a win-lose system, “Kim said. “It’s toxic. We want more people to run,” he said. He claimed that rank voting would encourage more people to run and then, “more people will vote.”
If the ballot proposal were approved in November, rank voting would be implemented by the 2021 mayoral election.
Bertha Lewis, an activist from the Black Institute said she was getting arthritis from knocking on doors and that rank voting would help expand the electorate and that she was “tired of low voter turnout.”
Brooklyn Councilman Brad Lander said that he had been working with Brewer since 2010 on implementing rank voting. “You’ve heard all the reasons, but it really is pretty simple because it gives more voters an opportunity to participate. . .rank choice voting is one great way to revitalize energy to our local democracy in New York City. Let’s get it done this November.”
Other speakers also cited concerns about how implementing rank voting will allow the electorate to vote for whom they want without being concerned about so-called ‘spoiler’ candidates.
Rank voting has been adopted by cities such as San Francisco, Portland, and Minneapolis for mayoral and city council elections.