Bill would allow elected officials to carry out term of predecessor following special election
September 25, 2019, New York, NY: Council Members Keith Powers and Eric Ulrich today introduced legislation to reform the special election process in New York City. Intro. 1734 would allow the Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President, and City Council Members elected by special election to serve the remainder of their predecessor’s term. Under current law, those elected by special election are required to go through that calendar year’s primary and general elections.
The legislation was inspired by recent special elections in the City. For example, candidates in the 45th Council District had to begin petitioning for the primary election in June before the special election in February had even been decided. In total, voters in the 45th district will experience four elections in 2019 to fill two vacancies.
“This legislation will help bring some simplicity to the election process, as well as save taxpayer dollars,” said Council Member Keith Powers. “Streamlining elections allows newly elected officials to focus on what matters: getting to work for New Yorkers.”
“It does not make any sense to win a special election and then have to run again months later. It is a complete waste of taxpayer dollars and it can decrease voter turnout,” said Councilman Eric Ulrich. “This is commonsense legislation, and I urge my colleagues in the City Council to support this bill.”
This measure, paired with Ranked Choice Voting, will streamline elections and result in better outcomes by making election results more representative of voter choice. New Yorkers have the opportunity to vote on Ranked Choice Voting in November, and this legislation would strengthen the new electoral system by streamlining the process.
Council Members Louis, Lander, Kallos, and Borelli, as well as Public Advocate Williams, are sponsors of the legislation.
“Our city must rethink our special election system because right now, it’s expensive, illogical and confusing to voters,” said Public Advocate Jumaane D. Williams. “As someone who was recently elected in a special — and will be up for election again this fall to finish out the existing term — I see the clear need for reform. I thank Council Members Powers and Ulrich for introducing this legislation which will streamline this outdated and unnecessarily complicated process.”
“Elections, often held as bastions of our democracy, should be both fair and transparent. As it stands, election law in New York City is complicated and confusing, forcing public officials to continue to run after winning elections and constituents to come back to the polls over and over,” said Council Member Farah Louis. “Part of our jobs as public officials is to engage the public in the electoral process, but voting should not be a chore. Streamlining the process to a single non-partisan special election ensures that public officials have capacity to perform the duties they were elected to perform, saves money and time, and provides voters the autonomy they deserve under the Constitution.”
“Just in the last 9 months we have voted twice for Public Advocate, and will vote once more in November,” said Council Member Brad Lander. “This bill would allow people elected to fill vacancies by special election to serve the remainder of their predecessor’s term, cutting down on the unnecessarily frequent elections that often have little turnout or attention but are both time-consuming for the person trying to do the job they were elected to do and expensive for taxpayers.”
“If we want to have engaged voters who participate, we cannot drown them in unnecessary, redundant, wasteful elections,” said Council Member Ben Kallos. “The time is now to do away with the City’s current system where candidates run in special elections and then are forced to run again often just months later in a general election. The current system is wasteful and there is plenty of room for improvement. Thank you to Council Member Powers for introducing this legislation.”
The legislation would not apply to vacancies for Mayor and would also require passage through a ballot referendum once passed in the Council.
This bill is in line with Council Member Powers’ dedication to policies that reform government and our campaign finance system: his law that allows individuals to use campaign funds for childcare passed in 2018, and he has proposals to help first-time candidates run for office. He has also proposed legislation that would require candidates running for citywide office to obtain at least 50 contributions from residents in each borough.
About Council Member Keith Powers
Keith Powers is the Council Member for the East Side of Manhattan, covering Stuyvesant Town-Peter Cooper Village, Waterside Plaza, Tudor City, East Midtown, Midtown West, and part of the Upper East Side. Council Member Powers serves as Chair of the Criminal Justice Committee, and is vice co-chair of budget for the Progressive Caucus.