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Bipartisan NYC Council duo wants to reform ‘byzantine’ special elections

2019-09-25

The city would do away with its “byzantine” and costly system for holding special elections under forthcoming legislation from two councilmen Manhattan Dem Keith Powers and Queens Republican Eric Ulrich.

Their bill to be introduced Wednesday would reduce the number of special elections to replace a city official who steps down from three to just one.

“We’re spending all this money on elections that people don’t know about. Once you choose a representative, let that person start doing the job,” Powers told the Daily News.

Under the status quo, whenever a city official steps down, there’s a special election soon after to replace him or her.

But then there’s two more torturous rounds of voting — a primary and a general election — a system that alienates voters and makes no sense to Powers and other critics.

“Why do you have to do a special and then do these other elections right after it?” the Democratic councilman said. “Our proposal is to just say, that’s the ballgame after the special election.”

For example, after Jumaane Williams left his Council seat to become public advocate, there was a special election to fill the vacancy in May.

But then the winner, Councilwoman Farah Louis, had to go through a primary just a month later. The Brooklyn pol triumphed in that contest, and will be on the general election ballot in November, which she’s poised to win again.

Louis and Williams are among the sponsors of Powers’s bill.

The legislation comes as the city readies to vote on a measure called ranked-choice voting later this year. Under that proposal, voters would rank their top five candidates from first to last for each seat. If no one wins a majority on the first go, then the last-place candidate would be eliminated and the votes reallocated.

Powers said his bill plus ranked-choice voting would be a winning combination.

He said, “I think with the potential move to ranked-choice voting, this allows the winner of the election who will be a consensus candidate to take office right away.