Elections during the Off-Year (2013)

3 Nov

Turnout is, to put it bluntly, un-Americanly too low during the off off-year elections.  An off-year election is defined when it happens during an odd-numbered year (i.e. this year).  I would actually love it if elections for state-, county-, local- and special district- levels happened during the off-year because as it stands right now, all the media is sucked into the presidential race when it is actually the lower levels that have more of an impact on our lives.  Unfortunately, this means that the public is even less interested and thus turnout decreases, sometimes precipitously, from the previous general presidential election.  In my current state of residence of Indiana, all levels of government from townships to the federal level are being elected which squeezes out media coverage of the down-ballot races which I think does a disservice to all those positions and voters.  Anyways, the following are some highlights of select races being decided during this week’s off-year general election:

ELECTION_2013-1024x1021

  • Minneapolis mayoral election: Minnesota is a very civic-minded state, or at least that’s what I gathered in the Star Tribune.  What makes it both unique and exciting is that the mayoral race (and the others with more than 2 candidates) will be using ranked choice voting.  To give a very brief summary of ranked choice voting, more commonly known by its abbreviation of RCV, it allows voters to vote for as many as 3 candidates and ranking them by their preference.  What it aims to do is to give voters a chance to still influence the election even if their 1st-preferred candidate didn’t win and more likely producing a consensus candidate that will have gotten more votes that the more ubiquitous first-past-the-post method.
  • New York City mayoral election: The earlier Democratic primary was more newsworthy because at least 4 different candidates were on top in the polls (Anthony Weiner, Christine Quinn, Bill Thompson, and the eventual winner Bill de Blasio).  What makes this particular election a little exciting (for Democrats) is that this will most likely be the first time that the overly Democratic city will actually have a Democratic mayor in 2 decades.  It looks like Bill de Blasio will be cruising past Republican Joe Lhota, but the question is by how much.
  • New Jersey gubernatorial election: I feel a little badly for Gov. Chris Christie‘s opponent, State Senator Barbara Buono, because in such a blue state like New Jersey, a generic Democrat would win.  However, Christie’s tenure as governorship has been remarkable because it can easily be summarized that acts like no other governor by saying it how it really is.  POLITICO‘s story on his ‘dropping’ poll numbers of being ‘only’ 20 points ahead summarizes the race well.
  • Virginia gubernatorial election: This race has made the top of my political news feed more than I cared for.  After a vote by the state party to switch to a convention which made it easier for Republican Cuccinelli to win the primary and surprise nominee Rev. E.W. Jackson to attain the Lt. Gov. nomination, the state may vote for the same party for governor as the President since 1973.  Now McAuliffe, the former DNC chairman, is on track to win; however, polls show that the race is still tight and so both campaigns are spending like there’s no tomorrow.

 

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Boris Shor, PhD

Assistant Professor, Dep't of Political Science, U. of Houston

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