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Queens Chronicle

It’s fall — election reform is in the air

Ranked voting on ballot, Council proposal to change ‘special’ terms

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Posted: Thursday, October 3, 2019 10:30 am

If it had been in place a few years ago, Borough President Melinda Katz would have probably won last summer’s district attorney primary on Election Night instead of going through a grueling, two-month recount.

Councilman Eric Ulrich (R-Ozone Park) speculated that he might even be New York City public advocate today if ranked-choice voting was in effect during last February’s nonpartisan special election.

Several cities — including San Francisco, Cambridge, Mass., and Minneapolis — have adopted ranked-choice voting, as has the state of Maine.

This November, it will be on the ballot in New York City — part of what seems a sweeping trend to redo the voting process in the city.

Ulrich has, for instance, teamed up with a Democratic Manhattan councilman, Keith Powers, on a bill that will streamline special elections by allowing the winners to fill out the the remainder of an unexpired term.

Under current law, special election winners only hold office through the end of the calendar year and are required to run again in the next November’s general election.

“Jumaane won fair and square,” said Ulrich, who finished second behind then-Councilman Jumaane Williams in that public advocate race. “He should be allowed to finish that term.

“Making him run again in November is unnecessary and a waste of taxpayer money,” he said.

Perhaps a more sweeping change would be if a ranked voting system is adopted in New York City after the November elections.

Under a ranked-choice system, voters list their choices in order of preference. If no candidate gets a majority, the last-place finisher is eliminated and the voters’ ballot is credited to their second choice.

Fair Vote, a nonpartisan public-interest group promoting ranked voting and other election reforms nationally, calls it an “instant runoff.”

“I think this could work well in a place like New York,” said Ulrich, who is in favor of the change.

“Bill de Blasio won [the mayoral election] the first time with something like 40 percent of the vote,” he said.

“That’s not exactly an indication of wide support.”

Ulrich suggested it was possible, as the most moderate candidate in the crowded public advocate campaign, that he could have garnered enough second-place votes to win.

Ranked voting “gives people more choices and I support more choices.”

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