Vote Yes for Nonpartisan Elections

Bloomberg's Proposal Is Better Than Our Sham System

Bloomberg made the billionaire and other screeds even less likely when he changed his and the charter commission's mind and allowed candidates to list their party registration on the ballot, giving voters under the new system a greater chance of responding to "cues" other than high-priced name recognition. Most importantly, the mayor retreated from his own onetime self-serving motive for this initiative by making the effective date 2009, meaning he can't benefit from it in 2005. He still must make sure that this change, if approved, does not damage the city's invaluable campaign finance system.

It's true that this proposition may be part of a Bloomberg deal with the discredited Independence Party—whose ballot line he won on in 2001 and wants in 2005. But every other third party is fighting the proposition because, as the Working Families Party concedes, it will mean they have no ballot line to broker. A mayor honoring a promise made to a party on a matter of principle to both—and against the narrow interests of the party—is hardly a scandalous compromise. Bloomberg's multimillion-dollar financing of a slick and anonymous campaign to ratify a proposal he forced on the ballot is disquieting. But good can come from bad, as it did with term limits, when an unelected billionaire, Ron Lauder, outraged every insider, yet wound up breathing life into a moribund electoral system.

Since there is no city whose politics mirror New York's, and since the listing of party registration only occurs in two other nonpartisan cities, there is no scientific evidence that this precise reform is a panacea, only that it is a reasoned hope. The difference between the percentage of white voters in the general election and Democratic primary here is miniscule, making the chance of a minority winning one race or the other roughly equivalent. The Justice Department's Voting Rights Division under Democratic and Republican presidents has approved all 152 nonpartisan applications, indicating they do not believe it dilutes minority rights. Thirty-seven percent of the 41 largest nonpartisan cities have minority mayors, compared to 22 percent of the largest partisan cities.

We can't be prophets about so fundamental a change, but we can be historians. This city's broken and fixable history demands that we take this calculated chance.


Research assistance: Tommy Hallissey, Cristi Hegranes, Christine Lagorio, Ruth Mantell, and Abigail Roberts


Related Articles:

"Rush to Judgment: Why New York's Leading Reformers Oppose Charter Change" by Tom Robbins

"Primary Colors: Activists Fear Nonparty Elections Will Quash the Minority Vote" by Ta-Nehisi Coates

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