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Green Party has a Plan to Increase Voter Turnout During Off-Year Elections

Scott Willis

The local elections on Tuesday aren’t expected to generate much activity at the polls, so it’s probably no surprise the Green Party has a plan to change that.  They’re calling for "Inclusive Democracy" to increase turnout and civic engagement.  Mayoral candidate Howie Hawkins illustrates his point.

"Did you hear there's an election Tuesday?  A lot of people out here, as we knock on doors and make phone calls, they're like what?  We had a presidential election last year.  What's this year?"

Hawkins says that lack of awareness is exactly why fundamental reforms are needed.  For example, the Greens are calling for neighborhood assemblies to better reflect the city’s smaller, natural neighborhoods.  Hawkins says they’d have their own budgets and make planning decisions.

"Whether you restore a historic building or put in a Rite Aid.  That was a big issue in Eastwood.  They debated that like crazy, but the decision was made by the planning commission.  We want to bring that to the neighborhood level.  If people have real power at the local level and have reason to participate, then when elections come around, they'll know what's going on and will want to participate."

That leads to the instant runoff voting part of their plan as it pertains to the mayoral race.  With the vote getting split at least four ways this year, second district common council candidate Eric Graf says chances are the next mayor will be elected with the majority voting for someone other than the winner. 

"As a result of the last poll [for mayor] unfortunately, it looks like some people are seeing this as a two-way race.  Ultimately, they should be able to vote for the candidate they agree with the most.  So, they rank their choices, and the second choice will be added to the other candidates until somebody has a majority."

Credit file photo

Along those lines, the Green’s say proportional representation would also encourage voter participation.  Instead of the current winner-take-all model, each party would get a fair share of representation in proportion to the vote it receives.  Howie Hawkins says this would get more minorities, women, and different parties in office.

"People are always telling me if you were a Democrat or a Republican, you could be elected.  Newsflash!  We get more votes than the Republicans in this city.  Greens are the second party.  We're the opposition to the Democrats."

Hawkins says the problem is most aren’t tuned in to local news, and are getting hung up on the topic of the day in the 24 hour news cycle, and the latest nonsense on Facebook. 

Scott Willis covers politics, local government, transportation, and arts and culture for WAER. He came to Syracuse from Detroit in 2001, where he began his career in radio as an intern and freelance reporter. Scott is honored and privileged to bring the day’s news and in-depth feature reporting to WAER’s dedicated and generous listeners. You can find him on twitter @swillisWAER and email him at