Push for ranked-choice voting in the Big Apple seems to be bearing fruit
The campaign to make New York City the biggest jurisdiction in the country with ranked-choice voting is kicking in to a higher gear — and has been boosted by a bit of star power.
Early balloting begins Saturday in the nation's biggest city, which has long been beset by minimal political competition and correspondingly abysmal turnout. Advocates of so-called RCV predict a burst of democratic passion across the five boroughs if voters are permitted to list as many as five candidates for each office in order of preference, with a sort of instant runoff system producing the winner if no one secures an outright majority of first-place votes.
The system would be used for primaries and special elections starting in 2021 — the next contests for mayor, borough presidents, other citywide offices and City Council — if the referendum is approved in two weeks.
RCV advocates are hoping the publicity surrounding a victory in New York will boost momentum for their cause nationwide. While the system is used for local elections in nearly 20 cities, including San Francisco and Minneapolis, Maine is the only state that's adopted it for congressional races and the primary and general presidential elections. A ballot initiative that would make RCV the norm across Massachusetts is likely to get a vote a year from now.
In New York, a coalition of advocates for the switch includes progressive activists and pro-business groups, and they are cautiously optimistic of victory. To help their cause, they've financed advertisements airing this week on the local airwaves featuring the venerable Academy Award-winning actor Michael Douglas.
"No one wins without a majority of voters, so politicians will have to respect every community," is the heart of his pitch.
Business interests are stressing something different: That municipal politics would likely shift from reliably liberal to somewhat centrist, because candidates who can now win by locking down a plurality base of support on the left would need to appeal to a broad swath of the electorate in order to get second- or third-choice votes.
Advocates have sought to raise interest in the ballot measure, during what's otherwise a nothing-burger of a campaign season, with events demonstrating the RCV system by inviting voter to rank their favorite pizzas, cookies and beers.
Although Republicans have generally been opposed to RCV, claiming it holds a high potential to incubatee voter fraud, no organized opposition has surfaced in the city. Opinion writers for the Daily News, however, have said the system will prove confusing and could thwart insurgent candidacies from the city's Latino and black precincts.
The New York Times endorsed the measure, known as Question 1, as a way to boost turnout and assure "the election of more female and minority candidates, who often suffer from the perception that they aren't 'electable' in a traditional first-past-the-post race."
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More voters see "corruption in our political system" as the country's most pressing problem than any of the other issues getting greater attention in the 2020 campaign, new polling shows.
The online survey conducted in September asked voters whether seven different issues were an "extremely serious problem" for the country, and the only one where a majority said yes was political corruption; rising health care costs came in second at 49 percent.
The poll is only the latest to declare the electorate's dire concern about the broken political system. In just the last month, two-thirds of voters told one poll they believe the country is on the "edge of a civil war" and a plurality in another poll identified the government itself as the country's biggest problem.
But the topic of democracy reform is getting hardly any mention in the presidential race. Though most of the Democratic candidates have plans for limiting money in politics, making voting easier, securing elections and restoring the balance of powers, few have emphasized these ideas on the trail. And President Trump, who four years ago ran as the candidate most interested in "draining the swamp," rarely mentions this aspiration anymore.
A Democratic advocacy group has filed a third lawsuit in less than a month challenging Michigan laws and policies it says restrict voting rights.
The focus on Michigan voting laws by the super PAC Priorities USA reflects the importance of the state's 16 electoral votes in the 2020 presidential election. President Trump won Michigan, a swing state, by less than half a percentage point in 2016.
The latest lawsuit, filed Friday in state court, challenges actions taken after a successful 2018 ballot initiative expanded voting options, such as allowing people to register to vote at any time (including on Election Day). It also automatically registered people to vote when they obtained or renewed their driver's licenses.