Last Week’s Contest Cost $15 Million; Attracted Just Seven Percent
On the heels of last month’s runoff elections for city comptroller and public advocate, in which just seven percent of registered Democrats cast ballots, State Senator Joseph Addabbo has announced that he will seek to eliminate these costly rematches, which occur when none of the candidates receive at least 40 percent of the vote.
In last week’s runoff election, Councilman John Liu (D-Flushing) won the party’s nominee for comptroller, defeating Brooklyn Councilman David Yassky, while Councilman Bill de Blasio defeated Mark Green for the party’s nominee for public advocate. Those results mirrored the results of the September 15 primary, leading critics to wonder if it was worth the $15 million price tag to hold the runoff contest.
With it costing about $72 per vote, Addabbo (D-Howard Beach) announced a new law on Monday that would eliminate the runoff system. “As chairman of the Senate Committee on Elections, I plan to research the process by which runoff elections can be eliminated entirely,” said Addabbo. After researching the means necessary to abolish runoffs, he will draft legislation or seek a city Charter change.
The current runoff system was created after the 1969 mayoral primary in which conservative Democrat Mario Procaccino won with just 32.8 percent of the vote in a five- way race. He eventually lost the general election to incumbent John V. Lindsay, who ran on the Liberal-Fusion line. In response, legislators determined that citywide candidates must receive at least 40 percent of the vote to avoid a runoff beginning in 1973.
“This is an old and antiquated process that needs to be reexamined,” said Addabbo. “Although it seems impossible that voter turnout could drop below the record low turnout of the September 15 primary of 11 percent, less than roughly eight percent of registered voters voted in the runoff election.”
As chair of the Elections Committee, Addabbo says his goal is to increase voter turnout while making the voting process more accessible and efficient. He also expressed concern for military personnel overseas who are disenfranchised under the current system because there is not enough time for ballots to make their way through the mail and to the Board of Elections in a runoff election.
“Spending $15 million to hold an elec- tion the voters do not wish to participate in is a waste of taxpayer dollars in a time of economic difficulty,” said Addabbo. “That money could have instead been spent more wisely, like on our seniors or school children.”