Saturday, March 26, 2011

Special Elections Are Dangerous

Adam Bradley's resignation last month triggered a special election to choose the next Mayor of White Plains. While many called for Mr. Bradley to step down, few considered the dynamics of a special election.

Short lead time and low turnout could make the outcome unpredictable and unrepresentative.

The Common Council, including Acting Mayor Thomas Roach, the Democratic majority candidate, could have chosen any date between March 31 and April 19.  They picked the earliest, prompting cries of foul from Republicans.

The partisan outcry notwithstanding, the minimal lead time lessens the information available from media coverage, websites, social media, debates, and forums.  It also lowers the candidates' ability to raise consciousness and money with lawn signs, rallies, commercials, and fundraisers. But the short lead time might work to the advantage of minority candidates, equalizing deep majority pockets.

While short lead time throws dirt on electoral tracks, low turnout can derail the train.  The electoral percentage voting in special elections is typically small, often under 10%. This enables a small, but committed minority to determine the outcome, disenfranchising the population at large.

In next Thursday's special mayoral election, if turnout is low, as in school budget referendums with about 2000 voters, and Mr. Hockley can mobilize most of the voters who wrote him in when he ran against Mr. Bradley, about 1800 partisans, Glen Hockley, the underdog, could win by a landslide.

One thing is sure.  In a low turnout special election, your vote counts more than ever.  Please vote on Thursday, March 31.