Wednesday, June 27, 2012

What Would Get More New Yorkers to Vote? Make Elections Nonpartisan

From the New York Times yesterday

What Would Get More New Yorkers to Vote?

read more of the discussion here

  h/t to Nomi Azulay

Make Elections Nonpartisan

Randy M. Mastro
Randy M. Mastro is a former deputy mayor of New York City, under Rudolph W. Giuliani, and is now a litigation partner at the law firm of Gibson Dunn.
Updated June 26, 2012, 11:14 PM
New York City can reverse the alarming drop in voter turnout by adopting a nonpartisan election system where
candidates of any or no political stripe run in an open primary and get on the ballot through petitioning. Any candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote wins outright, but assuming no candidate reaches that majority threshold, the top two vote-getters in the primary then square off in the general election. This approach would permit more registered voters to participate in a meaningful primary process and attract more good candidates to run for office.
With the exception of the mayoralty, we remain essentially a one-party town, so the Democratic primary is the election, and that primary is closed to registered Democrats only.
Any candidate who gets more than 50 percent of the vote wins. If no candidate reaches that threshold, the top two vote-getters square off in the general election.
Most other cities in this country have changed their local electoral systems. Today, more than 80 percent of American cities have nonpartisan elections for local office. Indeed, major cities like Los Angeles, Chicago, Houston, Detroit, Dallas, San Francisco and Boston all elect their mayors through some form of nonpartisan election. And the voters have embraced the change. In Los Angeles, for example, voter turnout has risen nearly 20 percent over the last two mayoral election cycles, far surpassing New York City's rates of participation. Indeed, the last time New York City exceeded Los Angeles's voter turnout in a mayoral primary election was in 1989.
The time for change has come. Instead of lagging behind the rest of the nation, New York City needs to do the what it does best -- lead. The benefits are obvious. In our closed primary system, nearly one-third of registered New York City voters are not eligible to vote in the Democratic primary that typically determines the ultimate winner. And the party organization or, to a lesser extent, special interest coalitions that can influence low-turnout Democratic
primaries, dictate the outcome. But with an open primary/"top two" run-off election system, all voters could participate, and more good candidates would be encouraged to run, having a greater likelihood of prevailing in open primaries, than in the current closed system.
It's really a simple proposition: If we want to turn around this alarming trend and, instead, encourage increased voter participation in our local elections and attract more good candidates to run for local office, we need to learn a lesson from the rest of the country: Nonpartisan elections work to accomplish those goals.
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