City Council runoff election to cost Albuquerque big bucks

Elections

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (KRQE) – Two seats on Albuquerque’s city council won’t be decided until next month in a costly runoff election. One candidate had almost double the number of votes than his opponents, but it still wasn’t enough.

The runoff election for two city council seats could cost Albuquerque about $1.4 million. Although, there are a couple of other options that would have picked a winner on election night.

“We had a great turnout, we had over 23% turnout,” said Bernalillo County Bureau of Elections Administrator, Nathan Jaramillo.

While that seems low, it was a higher turnout than previous elections. Big-ticket bond issues were passed, but even though incumbent Isaac Benton got a whopping 42% of the vote in a crowded candidate field, it wasn’t enough. In District 4, which covers the Northeast Heights, no one got the required 50% to win.

“Basically means the top two vote-getters showdown again in December, and essentially, you vote again, and at that point, majority rule wins and takes the seat,” said UNM professor and political analyst Gabe Sanchez.

The runoff will be held Dec. 10, costing the city up to $1.4 million.

“I think the main concern in that is running another election costs a lot of money to do that,” said Sanchez.

It used to only take 40% to win. If it was like that today, two candidates would have easily won last night. But Sanchez said going back to that 40% majority threshold might not be popular.

“I think for the most part, when people think about democracy and majority rule, 50-plus one tends to be the threshold,” said Sanchez.

A lot of cities, including Santa Fe, have shifted to ranked-choice voting, where people can choose their most to least favorite candidates in order, ensuring a person is elected on election night. But Sanchez said that process might confuse voters.

“So far, I haven’t heard a lot of disagreement of ‘Hey, we get another opportunity to vote again and weigh in on this decision and voice our opinion,’ I think most people probably prefer that part of the process,” said Sanchez. “There’s a number of ways to get to the outcome, I think it really is a question of taste and preference.”

In August, the Albuquerque city council withdrew a proposal to switch to ranked-choice voting because they were worried they didn’t have enough time to educate voters on how it worked.

District 4 is electing a new councilor after Brad Winter decided not to run. He held the seat for 20 years. Sanchez said it is the race to watch and it could be a close one in December.

Copyright 2019 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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