Costly public advocate race prompts calls for instant runoff voting

Credit: Natalie Keyssar.
Voters are headed to the polls Tuesday for a runoff election to determine the winner of the city’s public advocate race. Credit: Natalie Keyssar

Voters will determine the city’s next public advocate on Tuesday, at a cost of about $13 million. The high-priced runoff has prompted some officials and advocates to call for a change to the voting process.

State Sen. Daniel Squadron and City Councilwoman Letitia James are facing off Tuesday after neither of them won 40 percent or more of the vote in the primary.

But some local elected officials are hoping this runoff election will be the last one as they advocate for a switch to instant runoff voting, a system in which voters rank candidates by preference.

In instant runoff voting, the last-place candidate is eliminated and those votes are redistributed to the other candidates based on the preferences on the ballots. The process is repeated until one candidate reaches the 40 percent mark.

Cities such as Minneapolis and San Francisco already use instant runoff voting. Some have been pushing for the reform in New York for years, but this year’s pricey public advocate race has brought more attention to the effort.

The public advocate’s office is budgeted only $2.3 million per year, and officials expect record low voter turnout on Tuesday, approximately 100,000 to 175,000 voters.


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