Tuesday, August 03, 2010

Non-Partisan Elections

Just a few short weeks ago, it looked like the issue of non-partisan elections was dead for the City Charter Revision Commission. In the past few days, however, there appeared to be a serious pushback -- claims of its demise were said to be premature. Just yesterday, the City Charter Revision Commission devoted most of its Staten Island hearing to whether non-partisan elections should be placed on the ballot this fall, to the apparent chagrin of many in attendance.

The Brennan Center outlined its position on non-partisan elections in a letter to the Charter Revision Commission in early July: given that this issue was put to the people of New York City just a few years ago -- and that it was soundly defeated after many groups, including the Brennan Center, argued that the existing evidence suggested that non-partisan elections could have adverse impacts on poor voters, communities of color and voter turnout -- that it should not be put on the ballot again unless the Commission could produce a persuasive body of research that convincingly shows it would not have these negative impacts. Further, we noted, that evidence must be provided to the public with an opportunity for adequate review and comment. So far, we have not seen that kind of evidence.

As NYPIRG noted in its statement yesterday, we are now just three months away from election day -- there is even less time for a thorough public review of whatever empirical, scientifically valid arguments there might be in favor of such a dramatic change to the way New Yorkers select their representatives. Suddenly changing its recommendation and attempting to rush non-partisan elections "through in the dog days of August guarantees a needlessly rancorous and divisive fall for the work of [the] Commission."

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