The city’s runoff elections would be scrapped in favor of instant runoff voting under a bill being introduced Wednesday in the City Council. Backers say the new automatic system could avoid the trouble that’s been sparked by the difficulty of holding a primary and runoff two weeks apart with electronic voting machines – and save $20 million every election cycle the city spends on runoffs. They also say it would be more democratic because turnout is typically tiny for runoff elections, much smaller than for primaries. “This whole debate would all be unnecessary if we simply had instant runoff voting. We would save money, we would save time, we would save headaches,” said Councilman Brad Lander (D-Brooklyn), who is sponsoring the bill along with Councilwoman Gale Brewer. “This would enable more people to participate in the runoff.”
Instant runoff voting has been used in cities like San Francisco, Oakland, Minneapolis, and Portland.
Under the instant system, voters rank the candidates on the ballot in order of preference. If no one gets a majority, the candidate with the least votes is eliminated and their votes parceled out to the voter’s second choice – a process that continues until one candidate has a majority.
Currently, if no candidate gets 40% of the vote there is a separate runoff election between the two top finishers.