Tuesday, March 8, 2011

A City Party in New York

Matt Yglesias notes some hostility to bike lanes among NYC politicians and suggests that
...partisanship is a very useful device of governance and democratic accountability. But large American cities are so lopsidedly Democratic and deal with issues that are so different from the national ones, that I think most cities would be better served by a different system. The ideal thing, I think, for places like NYC and DC would be to actually have freestanding separate municipal level political parties.
A municipal city-issues party seems like it would be possible in New York, given that the state is one of the few that didn't do away with electoral fusion, and so continues to have several viable third parties. New York has a system in which third parties who get more than 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election qualify for ballot access statewide. Perhaps the reason there isn't a municipal-level third party is that the ballot access rules are geared to statewide elections?

Thankfully, New York Board of Elections breaks out election results for the 2010 governor's race for New York City. On all party lines, there were 1,366,054 votes for governor; 148,525 or 10.9% came from the parties that qualified based on performance that year. Of these parties (Independence, Conservative, Working Families, Green), only the Working Families Party got enough votes in NYC alone to qualify, with almost 77k votes. The Green Party qualified for the first time since 1998, winning ten thousand of its nearly sixty thousand total votes in NYC.

So, it's at least plausible for a municipal-issues party to survive in New York, at least if it were as well-funded and organized as the Working Families Party. That seems like a fairly high bar to clear. But: Be the change you want to see in the world.

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