Out of the blue (at least to me since I admittedly don't follow much local news unless it has to do with the arts, or my neighborhood) I received a ballot in the mail, for a Mail In only Special Election (how much did this thing cost tax payers anyway? didn't we just vote the other day??)  Anyway, the question is:

Shall the City of Albuquerque change the election process for Mayor and City Council currently contained in the City of Albuquerque City Charter?

The amendment modifies sections 7 and 8 of Article II, Elections, modifying the current election process for mayoral and councilor positions to require 50% rather than the current 40%.  

Currently, candidates for Mayor of City Council are elected if they receive the largest number of votes cast for the office and at least 40% of the total number of votes,  If no candidate receives 40% of the vote, the City has to hold a runoff election.

Petitioners propose increasing the 40% of the vote requirement to 50% of the vote. 

Part of me thinks this is a bad idea...  but it's just  feeling.  Would that mean more runoff elections?  Can we afford that?  Does the current system keep people out?  or keep the old guard in?  

Anyone have any thoughts on this? Pro or con?

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Je Sais, I had similar thoughts about this too.  I also wonder what is more expensive--mail in ballots or in person voting.  I, personally, don't really see a big difference (and much like you, this is really just a feeling) and wonder about how much more it would cost to hold run-off elections should they occur.  It seems that 50% would kill any chance of an independent party getting in too.  Maybe some other fixers have a better idea of what all this could mean?

I think the concern is that since ABQ elections are non-partisan, multiple candidates with similar views can dilute each other's vote. If the threshold for winning outright is set at 40% like it is now, that means someone can win the election even if their views are only supported by a plurality of Albuquerque voters.The last mayoral election is the most recent example of this: Berry got something like 43%, but the two other candidates together pulled well over 65%. The left-leaning side of the spectrum lost out that time, but this has hurt right-of-center candidates in the past too.

Raising the threshold to 50% means that the top two candidates will have a chance to face off unless someone actually wins a majority in the first round. It means no one will be able to win a city election without attracting a majority of the electorate's support at some point along the way. Since elections are officially non-partisan and candidates are not required to declare their party affiliation, I don't see how there's much of an impact on their prospects...independents have won city council seats in the past and presumably can do so again. They'll just need to be able to actually attract the support of a majority of the voters. Instant-runoff elections would be a better solution, but this change is in my opinion a lot better than the status quo.

Phil gets all the details above, so I just wanted to add that I'm supporting the measure, although I'm not a huge fan of the particulars. I think it'd be far more efficient and forward thinking to implement instant-runoff voting. But I spoke with a lawyer (just this evening, as it happens) who explained that the change as proposed requires  a simple shift from "40%" to "50%" in the existing legislation, while proposing instant-runoff would require a much more significant change (and a lot more new legislation to write/edit/approve, etc). 

As far as independent candidates go, it seems to me that they actually have a better chance of success under the 50% system, such as they would in an instant-runoff situation. If I know that the candidate I really don't want to lead only needs 40% to win, I'm more likely to vote for the candidate who can beat her, even if it means I don't get to vote for the candidate I actually want. If I know that the threshold is 50%, I can feel more comfortable casting my vote for the candidate I truly support, with the knowledge that a runoff means I can switch my allegiance to the candidate who shares some of my views but isn't my first choice.

A great description is "You vote for your favorite candidate in the first round. If your candidate advances to the second round, you keep supporting that candidate. If not, you get to pick among the remaining candidates." This description assumes that no one candidate has 50% of the vote in the first round. If any does, then....maybe this isn't Abq? ;)

Thanks for the question and I too was equally puzzled by the origin and pupose of this ballot.  Phil, thanks for helping to clarify the measure.

Yes, thanks, Phil, for explaining it so well.  I heard that Santa Fe passed Instant Run-Off voting several years ago, but hadn't implemented it yet.

 

I read that a mail-in ballot is cheaper than in person.  They don't have to set up the machines and polling places, and hire the pollworkers.

A majority of the votes in Albuquerque are for Dems.  Yet our city council is majority Repub.  They seem to vote alike, and the Rep. mayor never overrides them.  This is despite overwhelming testimony from the public.  This year, Districts 1,3,5, 7 and 9 are up, as well as the Mayor.  If this charter amendment passes, we'll have a more majority-rules council and mayor.  That seems fairer.

 

Also, there is a current lawsuit by LULAC about the recent redistricting of the City. The lawsuit says it puts too many minorities and old infrastructure into one or two districts. The League of Women Voters and others are advocating for not letting a body redistrict itself.

http://www.nmtelegram.com/2013/01/16/lulac-sues-city-of-albuquerque...

Michelle,  this year Districts 1,2,3,5,7, and 9 are up.  District 2 due O'Malley moving on to County.

 

Hunter, I was trying to show that more than half the City Council was up, so this is important.

  Thanks for reminding me about District 2.  Isaac Benton is planning to run for that seat, since he already represents much of it from his old District 3.

Somehow, I don't think any runoff threshold will having any meaning at the Council level.  Looking at the last two elections, 2009 and 2011, incumbents have easily won re-election with totals well over 50%.  I wouldn't expect any meaningful change in the balance of power on the Council other than District 2 which still won't change the majority.

 

Depends...some of the incumbents up this year are relatively weak and this is their first re-election campaign. I wouldn't be entirely surprised by some upsets, especially with the threshold change setting the bar a little higher. It comes down to the opposition's ability to run credible candidates, something that certainly doesn't always happen.

It would be refreshing to see 6 contested races and solid double-digit voter turnout.

Thanks everyone for the input! I knew I could count on DCFers!

Mail-ins are definitely cheaper. And I wonder if turnout doesn't bump up compared to using polling stations, where the concern (and reality) is that it's easy for minority interests to dominate the debate and turnout in small, odd elections.

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