In politics, we like to think that the concept of winning and losing elections is merely confined to those directly involved in the campaign.
However, in Brooklyn and other parts of this fair city, the people were the ones who lost the most in Tuesday’s primary.
The biggest reason has to do with the primary system in New York itself. Except for the Reform Party contest, primary participation is restricted by voter registration. Only Democrats can vote for Democrats; only Republicans can vote for Republicans.
No one will dispute that this is a heavily Democratic city; registered Democrats outnumber registered Republicans by about five to one. Going simply by math, with exception of a few Republican strongholds, chances are good that the Democratic primary winner is going to be a shoo-in for the November general election. In some districts, the primary winner may not have any opposition at all.
There are many independent, third-party or unaffiliated voters who ought to have a say in the primary race, but they’re left completely out of the picture.
It’s also not fair to registered Democrats or Republicans who wish to cross party lines for given contests. Restrictions on primary voting — along with the absence of same-day registration or early voting — also tamps down the turnout, which is always anemic unless the presidency is on the line.
We’ve said before in this space that New York City, which aspires to be a leader in just about everything, ought to forge a new way for voters to elect their representatives. Voting should be made easier through new technology while also encouraging greater participation and, yes, even a dash of excitement and hope that everyone’s voice will be heard at City Hall.
We can start by abandoning traditional party primaries in favor of instant runoff voting, in which candidates run for office in one election and all voters select them in order of preference.
Holding one big citywide election in November for all the marbles, so to speak, would have the dual effect of motivating people to vote while also saving the city money by staffing one election instead of two.
Our city’s current voting system is a disservice to our democracy. Let’s try something new that will make everyone feel like their vote matters.