Gotham Gazette Sun, 24 Mar 2019 02:54:14 +0000 Joomla! - Open Source Content Management en-gb (Webmaster) How Many Voters Will Turn Out for the Public Advocate Special Election? de blasio voting

(photo: Michael Appleton/Mayor's Office)

Around 200,000 to 700,000 voters are expected to show up to the polls for February 26 special election for New York City Public Advocate, according to political experts and candidates for the office. Though the election is certain to be a low turnout affair, just how low remains unclear, with turnout dependent upon how well the candidates are able to broadcast their messages and push people to the polls, how active labor unions and political clubs are, and other factors, including the weather on election day.

The election for just one of three citywide positions asks voters to choose between more than a dozen candidates vying to become the city’s next ombudsperson, voice for the people, and watchdog over the rest of city government. Former public advocate Letitia James, who served in the role from 2014 through 2018, was elected Attorney General in November, triggering the first citywide special election since governmental restructuring in 1989.

As of February, there were almost 5.2 million registered voters in New York City, according to the state Board of Elections. Of that total, about 3.5 million are registered Democrats; 954,000 registered to vote but unaffiliated with a party; and 523,000 Republicans.

A turnout of 500,000 voters for the Public Advocate special election would represent just over 10 percent of those 5.2 million registered voters.

Several experts view weather as the strongest deciding factor in turnout.

If the skies are clear, as many as 750,000 voters may head to the polls, according to Jerry Skurnik, a political consultant and founder of Prime New York. But if snow falls on the twenty-sixth, he estimates that the number could drop to 600,000 voters. Skurnik based his forecasts on turnout for five prior competitive special elections. He defined competitive as “two or more candidates spending real money.”

Other experts are less optimistic about civic engagement. If the unseasonal balminess New York recently experienced holds, turnout could hover around 600,000 voters, according to the projections of Bruce Gyory, a political consultant at Manatt and political science professor at University at Albany. But if the city suffers from another day of “subarctic conditions or a snowstorm or an ice storm,” then Gyory estimates a low end of 300,000 voters.

The last time weather played such a major role in a special election, as Gyory recalled, was the 1978 race for what had been Herman Badillo’s seat in the U.S. Congress representing the 21st District in the South Bronx. “The week before the election there was a big snowstorm,” Gyory said, who was working on eventual winner Robert Garcia’s campaign. “We needed a bigger turnout to win so we were petrified.” Ultimately, more than 14,000 Bronxites voted, securing Garcia’s victory.

In the current public advocate race, City Council Member Rafael Espinal’s campaign is looking to the 2013 public advocate Democratic primary runoff election between James and then-State Senator Daniel Squadron. Espinal, a Brooklyn Democrat, predicted a turnout between 230,000 to 700,000 voters. “I’m also factoring in the fact that we’ve had high turnout in the past primary and general,” Espinal said during a recent candidate forum at the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism. “New Yorkers are activated, there are people who usually wouldn’t vote in local elections, but because of what’s happening in Washington, are feeling they have a duty.”

Another City Council member and public advocate candidate, Ydanis Rodríguez, estimated on the low end, predicting about 300,000 voters. “We don’t live in a democratic system where we really persuade people to go out and vote,” he lamented at the same event.

Factors including media coverage and individual candidates’ ability to drum up excitement about their campaign will also influence turnout, Gyory said. But in an election with so little attention, small details that may not play into a typical election hold the potential to upend the race.

Since the public advocate race is nonpartisan, meaning not for existing political parties, all the candidates will be on one ballot under self-created party names. As a result, Eric Ulrich may have an advantage as the only Republican elected official in a race with more than a dozen Democrats. And with no runoff, divvying up the city’s Democrats could potentially lead to a Republican victory despite the lopsided GOP enrollment disadvantage. While those party labels will not be on the ballot, each candidate, especially the elected officials, are attempting to secure their base plus as many other votes as possible. Ulrich’s goal is to coalesce as many Republicans and conservative and moderate Democrats as he can.

The Queens Council member, who bills himself as a “Rockefeller Republican” and frequently calls his policies “socially liberal and fiscally conservative,” is hoping to garner support from voters seeking to rebuke de Blasio’s tenure, perhaps leading to a heightened motivation to turn out to vote. “This election is not going to be a referendum on Donald Trump, it’s going to be a referendum on Bill de Blasio,” he said on the Max & Murphy podcast in January.

With so many contenders in the field, some candidates view their path to victory as contingent on strong networks that stretch throughout the five boroughs. Michael Blake, a Bronx state Assembly member, is relying on a coalition of immigrants who identify with him as the son of Jamaican parents, colleagues in state government who have endorsed him, constituents in the Bronx, support from the United African Coalition, and connections from his time working for President Obama, among others.

When asked about his voter turnout prediction at the Newmark School event, he refused to give an answer. “I’m not going to tell my strategy,” said Blake, who is also a political consultant. “I’m not going to say how I think I’m going to win with other candidates here.” When pressed by moderator and Newmark professor Errol Louis of NY1, and even by fellow candidate Melissa Mark-Viverito, to at least name a potential number of voters, he defiantly shook his head.

Political endorsements could swing the vote in the race, not only by potentially determining the winner but also in broadly fostering excitement about the race and encouraging New Yorkers to head to the polls. How active clubs and labor unions and elected officials are in supporting their candidate of choice will influence turnout. How many clubs and unions and electeds sit the race out, making no endorsement, will also have an impact.

Brooklyn City Council Member Jumaane Williams has racked up political endorsements from dozens of state and city politicians, labor unions, political clubs, and progressive organizations. He also benefits from momentum from his 2018 race for lieutenant governor, when he did well in the city, especially in Manhattan and Brooklyn, against incumbent Lt. Gov. Kathy Hochul, from western New York. In the other boroughs, he still stands to gain from name recognition, and this time he’s not competing against an incumbent, though he is facing a deep group of locally-based officials.

The Working Families Party, which endorsed Williams after also backing him in last year’s primary, believes its base is galvanized and ready to show up to support him again. While they don’t have a voter turnout estimate, organizing director Ava Benezra said they’re sending 400,000 texts to likely voters. The New Kings Democrats are coordinating similar efforts for Williams as election day nears, according to vice president of organizing Sage Rockermann. And he recently won the endorsement of the Kings County Democrats, Brooklyn’s official arm of the Democratic party.

Labor unions hold significant political clout in New York City, but their voter outreach efforts appear to be limited for this election, with some of the city’s largest unions perhaps choosing to sit it out as to not take a chance in an especially hard-to-predict race.

Former City Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito has gained several endorsements from City Council members, Congressional Rep. Adriano Espaillat, a few Latino political organizations, women’s groups, and labor unions.

Teamsters Local 801 endorsed Mark-Viverito for her efforts in helping upgrade sanitation workers’ facilities, especially for women. “I don’t forget people who are good to my workforce,” Local 801 president Harry Nespoli said. He is encouraging his staff to vote for Mark-Viverito and pledged to do “anything we can to help her,” but has not yet engaged in citywide voter turnout efforts.

Meanwhile, one of New York City’s largest and most prominent unions, 1199 SEIU, decided against endorsing a candidate or facilitating voter outreach efforts. This comes as a surprise as Blake frequently notes his father’s membership in 1199SEIU in his stump speech and the union endorsed Blake for Assembly in the past, but at the same time, Mark-Viverito also has strong ties to the union. “There are a number of fierce healthcare advocates running for this important seat,” said president George Gresham. “We are confident that the public will select the best fit for the position.”

Political clubs are endorsing and working on behalf of their selected candidates.

Stonewall Democrats, which endorsed Assemblymember Danny O’Donnell, is “hitting the phones to support him and will continue to do so up until election day,” said club president Rod Townsend. “Having a special election in February is a different kind of animal than we’re used to. We’re hoping that our reach as a large citywide club will spread the word from Riverdale to the Rockaways and everywhere in between.”

While the Lexington Democratic Club is canvassing and phone banking on behalf of Assemblymember Ron Kim, the Grand Street Democrats are also coordinating door-knocking and flyering campaigns to encourage New Yorkers to vote for their endorsed candidate: Benjamin Yee, a civic technologist and political operative.

“With such a large field in this race and very little time to campaign,” said Grand Street Democrats president Jeremy Sherber, “the kind of personal connections clubs like ours can make will have an outsized impact on this special election.” The club does not yet have a turnout estimate, but plans to use past local special elections to gauge voter participation in the Lower East Side.

Some hope that unconventional voter outreach efforts may lead to a surprising spike in voters following the immense boost in the September and November elections in New York. Generator Collective, an online community seeking to “humanize policy through storytelling,” has hosted several events with popular comedian Ilana Glazer – who has also promoted the race on Instagram to her 1 million followers – to inform young about the candidates and encourage them to vote.

The election, open to all registered voters across the five boroughs, is Tuesday, February 26.

How Many Voters Will Turn Out for the Public Advocate Special Election? Wed, 13 Feb 2019 05:00:00 +0000
Surging Democratic Voter Turnout in New York City May Mean Greater Importance in State Elections maybloomberg 73 special

(photo: Mayor's Office/Kristen Artz)

There was an extraordinary turnout in New York City in the just-completed statewide Democratic primaries on Thursday, September 13. In the city alone, 855,000 Democrats came to the polls. That vote substantially exceeded the crowded and competitive 2013 Democratic mayoral primary (690,000), was nearly triple the city’s turnout in the 2014 Cuomo-Teachout primary (298,000), and came somewhat close to matching the Clinton-Sanders turnout in New York City of practically 1 million Democrats (996,000).

The good news about increasing voter participation may also foretell change in the dynamics of statewide elections. Democratic turnout in New York City was 57.3% of the statewide turnout of 1.49 million, a higher share than the geographic turnout model being used in two Siena Research Institute polls on the primary in July and September 2018, each of which assumed New York City’s share of statewide turnout would be 50%.

You might say ‘who cares about a bunch of polls?’, but polls are based on turnout from past elections, and those turnout models are also what candidates and campaigns use to allocate their time, energy, money, and resources. And, polls are frequently covered by the news media. If turnout in New York City is rising, campaigns must spend more money and time and volunteer effort there, and candidates’ positions must strongly appeal to residents of the nation’s largest city.

Turnout in the rest of the state also differed from the Siena Poll models. The final September poll modeled the turnout at 50% New York City, 13% suburbs, and 38% upstate. The actual results were 57% New York City, 18% suburbs, and 25% upstate. The number of Democrats outside New York City that came out to vote also rose substantially from 2014, more than doubling from 276,000 to 635,000, meaning there was far broader interest in the election this year across the entire state than in 2014. Cuomo won two-to-one in New York City, three-to-one in the suburbs, and 57-43% upstate.

While New York City had big increases in raw numbers and an increased share of the statewide primary vote, the real test of the city’s importance in statewide elections will now come in the general election. In the past three gubernatorial, off-presidential year elections -- 2006, 2010, and 2014 -- the city’s share of the statewide vote has been dismal.

Despite being 43% of the state’s population, the city’s share of the statewide vote in the past three general elections where the election for Governor was the top of the ticket has not reached 30%. In 2014, the city was 1 million of 3.8 million votes, a mere 26.5% of the vote. In 2010, when Governor Cuomo was first elected to the position, the city was 29% of 4.6 million votes. In 2006, when Eliot Spitzer won handily, the city was 28% of 4.4 million votes.

The question now becomes, was the surge in turnout in the city a one-off due to a few unique circumstances, or will it be sustainable because of a more engaged Democratic constituency in the age of Donald Trump?

[Read more: A Closer Look at Democratic Primary Turnout, Margins & Geography]

Jim Brennan was a member of the New York State Assembly for 32 years, where he chaired four committees. On Twitter @JimBrennanNY.

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Surging Democratic Voter Turnout in New York City May Mean Greater Importance in State Elections Wed, 19 Sep 2018 04:00:00 +0000
It’s Not Too Late to Start Paying Attention to the City Elections - Here’s How NYC Votes voters New York City

(image: NYC Votes)

If you’re one of many New Yorkers who have not been paying much attention to this year’s city elections, don’t worry, there’s still time to get up to speed and make informed decisions on Election Day, November 7.

Tuesday, October 24, marked two weeks until that opportunity to vote, and after only about 14% of registered Democrats went to the polls in the September mayoral primary, it would be good for the city’s civic health if more voters cast ballots in November. (About 24% of city voters cast ballots in the last mayoral general election, in November 2013.)

Voter turnout and election results send significant messages to our elected officials, and also to the candidates who come up short. Campaigns, consultants, candidates, and elected officials -- whether the mayor or your borough president, local City Council member or others -- know who votes and often pay attention to what voters think. Campaigns target and listen to people who have voted in the past. (One way to guarantee that your interests, preferences, and beliefs are not paid attention to is to continue not paying attention to city politics.)

Even if you don’t have much time to dedicate to studying up, three weeks is still enough to get to know more about the candidates running for those city positions being elected this year, as well as the three questions that will be on the back of the ballot. This is direct democracy in action, and those who participate help keep our political leaders accountable, while also helping decide the direction the city heads for years to come.

Local elected officials have many powers that directly influence everyday life, the way city services run, and the future of the city. City Council members are the local-most elected official and exist to represent you and your neighborhood -- on everything from street safety to school quality to small business policy to garbage pick-up to oversight of the NYPD, and much, much more. Along with every seat in the 51-member City Council, also on the ballot in November are the three citywide positions of Mayor, Comptroller, and Public Advocate, each Borough President position, several judicial posts, and the District Attorneys of Brooklyn and Manhattan.

Then, there are the three ballot questions that each allow for a “yes” or “no” answer. Voters get to help decide whether 1) New York will hold a state constitutional convention, 2) corrupt politicians lose their pensions, and 3) small amounts of preserved upstate land can be used for vital infrastructure projects and be replaced by other new land.

Unfortunately, there isn’t that much competition on the ballot, largely the case because it is the general election in a city home to many, many more Democrats than Republicans or members of other parties. After Democrats, the second largest group of registered voters in New York City is actually those who do not belong to any political party, and Republicans are the third largest group. Democratic primaries are often where the most action is -- something to keep in mind for the future. [Here’s a full list of candidates for all the city government posts on the ballot in November.]

But for now, it is October, and you will have several choices to make if you choose to vote next month. There is competition for each of the three citywide positions, and plenty to brush up on with the candidates for those posts. For each, a Democratic incumbent is seeking a second term.

There is also some competition for most of the other positions, though in many City Council races, the Democratic nominee is facing only nominal opposition. Still, it is important to look into the candidates and vote, helping to send a message, whether you are behind the eventual winner or not. Even incumbent City Council who win reelection pay attention to their vote totals and win margin, noticing if they have more work to do to win over constituents. Broadly speaking, there are about ten City Council races that are especially worth paying attention to, but all that really matters for most voters is who is running in your district.

If you want to start paying attention to this city election cycle, here are a few ways to get started:

-Check your voter registration status. If you’re not registered to vote it is now too late to register to vote this November (but you should still register and get to know what’s happening this year, then get ready to vote in state level elections in 2018.)

-Start researching the candidates for Mayor. There are seven: Democrat Bill de Blasio, Republican Nicole Malliotakis, independent Bo Dietl, Reform Party nominee Sal Albanese, Green Party nominee Akeem Browder, Libertarian Party nominee Aaron Commey, and independent Michael Tolkin.

-Mark your calendar for Wednesday, November 1, which will be the second of two mayoral candidate debates. It is not yet clear which candidates beyond de Blasio and Malliotakis will be on the stage. It will be broadcast at 7 p.m. that night on CBS television.

(You can catch up on the first debate by reading our recap here, listening to this recap and analysis from our podcast, or watching the full debate.)

-Listen to other recent and past episodes of our election year podcast; which includes conversations with several mayoral candidates, both major party public advocate candidates, the Republican comptroller candidate, and others.

-The lone Public Advocate debate between Democrat Letitia James and Republican J.C. Polanco took place on October 16 -- you can watch it here, or read our recap here. (There are other Public Advocate candidates running.)

-The lone Comptroller debate between Democrat Scott Stringer and Republican Michel Faulkner took place on October 17 -- you can watch it here, or read our recap here. (There are other Comptroller candidates running.)

-Listen to our podcast episode recapping the Public Advocate and Comptroller debates and discussing the latest in the mayoral race, with Brigid Bergin of WNYC radio, from October 18.

-Poke around the NYC Votes website to view the candidate video statements from various candidates, including those who are running in your City Council district and those running to be your Borough President (you can punch your address in at the NYC Votes website to get a narrowed scope of who will be on your ballot). NYC Votes is the nonpartisan voter education and outreach arm of the city’s Campaign Finance Board, which oversees campaign finances and helps run the debates.

-Take this NYC Votes survey and sign up for updates.

-Read up on the three ballot questions from Gotham Gazette and/or from NYC Votes.

-As much as you can and want to, start reading regular coverage of the campaigns and city politics, in Gotham Gazette and other news outlets. Watch NY1, listen to WNYC radio.

-Mark your calendar for November 7, Election Day, and make a voting plan.

-Check your polling site to see where you go to vote on November 7.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

It’s Not Too Late to Start Paying Attention to the City Elections - Here’s How Sun, 15 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
You Can Help Boost Voter Turnout on Election Day, But You Have to Register Soon voting booth elections

(Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)

In order to vote in the city’s November 7 general election -- for Mayor, Public Advocate, Comptroller, Borough President City Council, and other offices -- one must register with the Board of Elections by Friday, October 13. For registrations by mail, registration forms must be postmarked by October 13 and received by the BOE by Wednesday, October 18. This is only for New York City residents who are not currently registered to vote.

Since party primaries are over, prospective voters are no longer being held to party registration deadlines and regulations -- New York has a closed primary system, with party-change deadlines far in advance. To vote in November’s election, one must simply be registered, with any party or none -- those registered to vote but not with one of about 10 official political parties are called “unaffiliated” voters. They are also at times referred to as “independents” or even “blanks” because of how they leave the party registration section of the form.

It appears that many New Yorkers have registered with the Independence Party thinking that it makes them an “independent” voter, but that is not the case.

Notably, though, Friday, October 13 -- of this year, 2017 -- is also the deadline to change your party registration ahead of next year's 2018 state-level electoral primaries in New York. If you're already registered to vote, you can declare a party or change parties by October 13 and be eligible for voting in Democratic, Republican, or other party primaries next fall.

Turnout on this Election Day is expected to be very low, with Mayor Bill de Blasio appearing likely to trounce his main opponents, Republican Nicole Malliotakis and independent Bo Dietl, as well as other minor candidates, including Reform Party nominee Sal Albanese, Green Party nominee Akeem Browder, and Michael Tolkin, running on his self-created Smart Cities ballot line.

In 2013, the turnout in the general election between de Blasio and Republican Joe Lhota was a meager 24%, the lowest in the city’s modern history. The 24% turnout in the general came after the Democratic and Republican primaries clocked in at 22% and 12%, respectively.

In this year’s Democratic primary on September 12, 14% of registered Democrats turned out to cast ballots. This is one of the lowest Democratic primary turnouts in the city’s history; in 2009, Bill Thompson won the Democratic mayoral primary with turnout of 11%.

This starkly low turnout in the Democratic primary comes in the wake of even lower turnout numbers in last year’s primaries for state and federal legislative offices. In the September 2016 state legislative primary, turnout totaled 10%; in June’s congressional primary, turnout stood at a measly 8%, according to a report from the City’s Board of Elections.

These numbers stood in sharp contrast to the turnout rates for the higher profile presidential contest that year: 35% of registered party members voted in April’s presidential primary, and 62% of registered voters in New York City voted in the November general election, with Hillary Clinton versus Donald Trump at the top of the marquee.

As of April 1 in New York City, there were just under 5 million registered voters. Of these, about 3.43 million were Democrats, about 522,600 were Republicans, and about 880,660 were unaffiliated with a party. Many thousands more were spread among the smaller parties, including Green, Reform, Independence, Conservative, and Working Families.

A recent poll for this year’s mayoral race from NBC-4 and Marist College shows de Blasio leading the pack with 65% of the vote, followed by Malliotakis at 18% and Dietl at 8%. While there are several weeks to Election Day, competitors must catch fire soon to have a chance to unseat the Democratic incumbent. The first debate -- with de Blasio, Malliotakis and Dietl -- is scheduled for Tuesday, October 10.

New Yorkers can check their registration status here, check registration deadlines here, and see a full list of candidates for all offices in the general election here.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

You Can Help Boost Voter Turnout on Election Day, But You Have to Register Soon Thu, 05 Oct 2017 04:00:00 +0000
2013 Voter Turnout Numbers Help Preview 2017 Primaries de Blasio voting

(photo: Samar Khurshid/Gotham Gazette)

New York City voters head to the polls Tuesday in this year’s party primary elections, mostly contests among competing Democrats. It is expected to be another low turnout election. Four years ago, only about 691,000 of the city’s 3.4 million (20%) registered Democrats voted in a high-profile, exciting, and hugely consequential mayoral primary with no incumbent in the race. Bill de Blasio won that primary and went on to cruise in the general election, which also saw terribly low voter turnout.

In 2013, there were also open seats for the other citywide positions of Comptroller and Public Advocate, with highly-competitive Democratic primaries in each, and many open seats for Borough President and City Council positions. If all that competition couldn’t drive much turnout, this year could see an especially shockingly low number of voters cast ballots.

Mayor de Blasio is expected to win reelection handily this year and is facing limited competition in the Democratic mayoral primary, though his main challenger, former City Council Member Sal Albanese has expressed optimism, citing a lack of enthusiasm for de Blasio. There are far fewer “open” City Council and other seats this cycle, with many incumbents gliding to reelection, some with nominal primary competition and some with none at all. In this heavily Democratic city, the Democratic Party primary is often the main event in terms of who wins an election.

As of April 1, the city was home to just under 5 million registered voters: 3.43 million Democrats; 880,660 unaffiliated with a party; 522,629 Republicans; and a few hundred thousand with other smaller parties.

There are about 20 races of particular interest on primary day, including the Democratic mayoral primary, if for nothing else to see what margin de Blasio can post; a very competitive Brooklyn District Attorney primary; the 10 “open” City Council seats; and another eight to ten Council races where the incumbent is facing a tough primary challenge.

As we look ahead to the outcomes, a look back at 2013 can be helpful.

In the end, elections are all about votes, and which candidates turn out their supporters or win the votes of those turning out because they always vote or they are motivated by another race on the ballot.

Turnout numbers and some of the primary election outcomes in specific races from 2013 can help us have a better sense of what is at play on primary day this year.

Of those 691,000 Democrats who voted in the 2013 primary for mayor, 282,344 voted for de Blasio, giving him just above the 40% he needed to avoid a runoff. It was a very crowded field, so de Blasio could easily surpass that vote total this year, but that will in part depend on overall turnout, which is expected to be lower than four years ago. Turnout and margin will both factor into how New York’s media and political classes interpret the results, including around a potential “mandate,” or lack thereof, for de Blasio. If he’s victorious on primary day, de Blasio will still have to defeat several general election opponents, including Republican Nicole Malliotakis, independent Bo Dietl, and, likely, Albanese, who has been backed by the Reform Party, among other candidates.

In the Brooklyn DA race, the late Ken Thompson won the 2013 primary, unseating long-time District Attorney Charles Hynes. After Thompson’s death due to cancer, Acting District Attorney Eric Gonzalez is seeking election to keep the position. He’s facing five qualified opponents in the primary. Brooklyn Democrats are eligible to vote in this election.

In 2013, Thompson won 100,678 votes to Hynes’ 81,173. In a crowded field with potentially lower turnout, the number to win the primary is surely lower than 100,000.

As for key City Council races, several interesting 2013 numbers are at play.

In City Council District 1, Council Member Margaret Chin is again running for reelection and facing a fight. In 2013, Chin won 8,846 votes to Jenifer Rajkumar’s 6,171. This year she faces several challengers, led by Christopher Marte.

In Council District 2, term-limited Council Member Rosie Mendez won reelection in 2013 with 12,507 votes. Her nearest competitor earned 2,809 votes. For this “open” seat, Mendez has endorsed frontrunner Carlina Rivera in a crowded primary with two other strong contenders, Mary Silver and Ronnie Cho.

In Council District 4, there was no primary in 2013 as term-limited Council Member Dan Garodnick cruised to reelection. There is a very large Democratic field this year, with Keith Powers and Marti Speranza seen as the frontrunners. Powers earned Garodnick’s endorsement this weekend. In this crowded race, the winner could get under 30% of the vote.

In Council District 6 we see one of three interesting rematches happening this year. This Upper West Side district is also almost always the highest turnout area of the city. Council Member Helen Rosenthal is being opposed by Mel Wymore, who came in second to Rosenthal in a crowded 2013 primary when it was an “open” seat. In 2013, there were 28,749 votes cast in the Democratic City Council primary. Rosenthal earned 7,716 for the win. Wymore earned 6,440. The two combined for about half the votes cast in the race. Rosenthal now has the power of incumbency and many more endorsements than in 2013. Wymore may also be hurt by the presence of a third candidate, Cary Goodman, who may siphon some anti-Rosenthal votes.

In Council District 8, Council speaker Melissa Mark-Viverito, now term-limited, won reelection in 2013 through a Democratic primary that saw 10,567 votes (a little more than a third of the votes cast in District 6), with 3,768 for the incumbent, who had several challengers. Mark-Viverito is now working hard to see her preferred successor, Diana Ayala, elected this year. She is facing a tough competition with Assemblymember Robert Rodriguez.

There were just 8,832 votes cast in the Council District 18 primary election in 2013, when Annabel Palma, now term-limited, won with 6,244 votes. Her challenger, William Moore, received 2,588 votes. Moore is running again this year, in a race that features a wider Democratic primary field headlined by State Senator Ruben Diaz Sr. The winner this year is likely to be elected with just a few thousand votes.

In one of the most-watched races of this cycle, Democratic voters in Queens’ 21st City Council District will choose between Assemblymember Francisco Moya and former Council Member and former State Senator Hiram Monserrate, who has convictions to his name for assaulting his then girlfriend and for misusing public money. Despite Monserrate’s criminal record, he retains a base of support. In 2013, outgoing City Council Member Julissa Ferreras-Copeland won the primary unopposed. She has endorsed Moya for the seat.

The Council District 28 seat is already vacant given former Council Member Ruben Wills’ recent corruption conviction. In 2013, Wills won the Democratic primary with 5,095 of the 10,420 votes cast. In second place was Hettie Powell, who received 3,435 votes. Powell is now running again, and is facing Adrienne Adams and Richard David. Adams has a lot of institutional support from the types of elected officials and unions that help get out the vote.

One of the most-watched races on primary day where an incumbent is being threatened by a tough challenger is in Council District 35, where Laurie Cumbo is again facing Ede Fox. When the seat was “open” in 2013, Cumbo won a crowded primary with 7,561 of the 20,895 votes cast among Democrats. Fox finished third with 5,340. This year, it’s just Cumbo and Fox head to head in the primary, though Cumbo now has key advantages (and some negatives) that come with incumbency.

In Council District 38, Carlos Menchaca is trying to hold onto his seat. He is facing several primary challengers, most notably Sara Gonzalez, whom Menchaca unseated in a rare feat in 2013, and Assemblymember Felix Ortiz. It is especially rare that an elected official would challenge a member of his or her own party in a primary, but Ortiz is doing it this year. In 2013, Menchaca received 4,306 votes to Gonzalez’s 3,017. District 38 was one of the lowest turnout districts in 2013.

Mathieu Eugene is trying to keep his Council seat in Brooklyn’s 40th District, where he faces two formidable challengers, Pia Raymond and Brian Cunningham. Raymond and Cunningham may split the anti-Eugene vote and send the incumbent back to the Council. In 2013, Eugene received 6,210 votes, whereas his top challenger, Saundra Thomas, received 4,862 votes. There were 12,974 votes cast in the District 40 primary overall, with Eugene receiving fewer than half.

Another lowest of the low turnout districts is Brooklyn’s 41st. Term-limited Council Member Darlene Mealy will be replaced this year, with a crowded Democratic field vying for the seat. Mealy received 7,607 of the 11,469 votes cast in the 2013 primary.

[See the full list of 2013 results from the Board of Elections]

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

Read more by this writer.

2013 Voter Turnout Numbers Help Preview 2017 Primaries Mon, 11 Sep 2017 04:00:00 +0000
8%! New Report Shows Shockingly Low Voter Turnout in NYC 30833378216 dde865964a z

(photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)

A recent report by New York City’s Board of Elections details shockingly low voter turnout in the 2016 congressional and state primary elections. The new numbers come amid increased attention to New York’s suppressive voting laws but little action from state lawmakers who could implement reforms like early voting, same-day registration, automatic voter registration, or even consolidation of primaries.

Because it was a presidential year, New Yorkers voted in three primaries -- presidential (April), congressional (June) and state (September) -- and the November general election.

The BOE report shows middling turnout for the presidential primaries, despite -- or because of -- New York’s strict party registration rules, and somewhat strong turnout for the November general election. The two other primaries show abysmal numbers, however.

The November 8 general election, wherein Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump topped the ballot, there was a 62% turnout rate among active eligible voters. Active voters are a smaller pool than eligible voters, which includes unregistered voters, and slightly smaller than if inactive registered voters would be included. The city turnout was slighter higher than the national turnout of 59.7%.

Primary elections were a different story entirely: for the presidential primary in April 2016, the city saw a 35% turnout; for the June federal primary, 8%; and for the September state and local primary, 10% turnout.

The report, simply titled “Annual Report 2016,” was released on the BOE’s website, although it does not indicate a date of publish and multiple representatives at the BOE could not provide a specific date of its publication. Along with information about the board’s president, Maria Guastella, and its borough commissioners, the report also includes data beyond just 2016 voter turnout.

The city Board of Elections has been the focus of criticism for many years, especially of late, for mismanagement or even malice; after a mistaken voter roll purge led to thousands of active voters being removed from the rolls, many votes in the presidential primary were declared invalid, in a situation Attorney General Eric Schneiderman referred to in harsh terms. “Democracy itself is under attack,” he said upon joining a lawsuit over the purge.

The BOE report on 2016 details actions undertaken by the board to increase turnout and streamline the election process, such as a public education campaign on city elections conducted in five different languages (English, Spanish, Chinese, Korean, and Bengali are listed), along with voter registration drives at community events and pre-registration information sessions with high school students. There were 4,477,091 active registered voters in the city as of November 1, 2016, with Democrats (3,343,041) outnumbering Republicans (501,976) by almost seven to one.

There were also 909,611 registered voters unaffiliated with any party; 123,677 voters registered with the Independence Party; 20,956 with the Conservative Party; and 16,651 with the Working Families Party; along with several thousand more registered with smaller parties.

In each election held in 2016, turnout was higher in Manhattan than in the other boroughs. In the June federal primary, Manhattan saw 14% turnout; Brooklyn and the Bronx each saw 5% turnout and Queens saw 4%. Staten Island didn’t have a federal primary in 2016, owing to the fact that neither incumbent Rep. Dan Donovan nor his Democratic challenger faced a primary challenge. Manhattan’s higher turnout for the congressional primary is at least somewhat due to the fact that there was an open seat race: Charles Rangel, the longtime Harlem congressional representative, retired, leading to a crowded, open race for the seat. Over half of primary votes in Manhattan in 2016 were cast in Rangel’s 13th district, now represented by fellow Democrat Adriano Espaillat.

However, Manhattan’s turnout was still higher than the other boroughs in the other elections. Manhattan’s turnout in state and local primaries was three points higher than the citywide average, nine points higher in the presidential primaries, and six points higher in the general election.

Low voter turnout is nothing new for New York City, or New York State, of course. New York’s legislative districts are severely gerrymandered to the point that most legislative races in the state are noncompetitive. A report from the Prison Gerrymandering Project shows that in the Republican-controlled New York State Senate, districts in the city, which are mostly represented by Democrats, are overpopulated and therefore dilute the city’s voice in the Senate, whereas upstate districts more likely to be represented by Republicans are underpopulated and thus have an amplified voice relative to population size. The same is true of the Assembly, except in favor of city Democrats rather than upstate Republicans.

Beyond gerrymandering, New York has regressive voting laws. The state does not allow no-excuse early voting, an electoral feature in 38 states, including many with notorious voting laws such as Florida, North Carolina, and Texas. It also doesn’t allow no-excuse absentee voting.

The Assembly, in this past legislative session, passed a voting reform package including early voting, automatic voter registration, and electronic poll books, which was endorsed by Mayor Bill de Blasio, who held two telephone town halls on electoral reform, but the package stalled in the Senate, with no action being taken in the body before the legislative session ended last week. Governor Andrew Cuomo, who outlined an electoral reform package in January, did nothing publicly to push the cause thereafter.

Although voter apathy, or simply a lack of awareness, could’ve contributed to the extremely low turnout, the city’s primary elections have been criticized as suppressive as well. The state had three separate primary elections in 2016 rather than consolidate the federal and state primaries favored by voting rights advocates. State legislators have debated this issue, with the Assembly voting to consolidate primaries in June while the Senate has pushed an August date.

New York also has a long six-month window between the required date to register with a party and the party’s actual primary, though this is only the case for those already registered who seek to enroll in a party or change party identification (newly enrolled voters can register within a few weeks of voting). In the presidential primary, wherein two unconventional outsider candidates, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders, drove large numbers of people to the polls who hadn’t voted before, some of whom were registered by not with a major political party, many hopeful voters learned that they couldn’t actually vote because they didn’t declare a party affiliation six months in advance. So-called independents, or “unaffiliated” registered voters, are blocked from voting in party primaries.

Francis Barry, the Director of Public Affairs and a former speechwriter for Mayor Michael Bloomberg, wrote in Bloomberg that New York “is the worst state for independents, bar none.”

Voting rights and government reform advocates and many legislators have called for an overhaul of the state’s election law. Most agree that the state should institute early voting, same-day registration, consolidated primaries, automatic registration, and other reforms. Some argue for open primaries where any registered voter could vote in a primary election of their choosing.

by Ben Brachfeld, Gotham Gazette

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8%! New Report Shows Shockingly Low Voter Turnout in NYC Tue, 27 Jun 2017 04:00:09 +0000
Attorney General Unveils Sweeping Voting Reform Package Schneiderman releases voting reform legislation

Attorney General Schneiderman with voting reform advocates outside Federal Hall (photo: @AGSchneiderman)

New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman unveiled an extensive voting reform package Wednesday that aims to streamline New York’s voter registration system, boost voter participation and increase voter turnout.

Standing with elected officials, good government groups, union members, and voting reform advocates outside Federal Hall in Manhattan, Schneiderman released the legislation, called the New York Votes Act. The bill contains provisions to update the state’s voting systems by adding early voting, automatic and same-day voter registration, consolidated primaries, shortened party registration deadlines, increased language access at the polls, online absentee ballots, and more. “Any law that makes it easier to vote is a good law; any law that makes it harder to vote is a bad law,” said Schneiderman, in a statement Wednesday. “New York has long been a bastion of democracy, but our state’s current system of registration and voting is an affront to that legacy.”

New York State has seen abysmal voter turnout for years. In 2014, the state ranked 49th of 50 in the country, with just 29 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots in the general election. While other states have tweaked their voting laws to encourage participation, voter turnout in New York has only grown worse, with just 19.7 percent of eligible voters casting their ballots in the 2016 presidential primaries.

Many of Schneiderman’s proposals grew out of the findings and recommendations from a December 2016 report produced by his office on the problems that voters faced during the presidential elections. The attorney general’s office was flooded with thousands of complaints of problems at the polls during April’s primary as well as hundreds during the November general election. These barriers, and the subsequent victory of Donald Trump, a historically unpopular president, have spurred renewed interest from New York’s top elected officials in modernizing the state’s electoral system.

New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced a fresh push for reform in the weeks leading up to election day. On Wednesday, the mayor praised Schneiderman’s proposal, in a statement saying it would “help bring New York up to speed and ensure New Yorkers statewide aren't turned away from casting their ballots as a result of senseless roadblocks.” Governor Andrew Cuomo has also pushed strongly for voting reform, making it a key platform in his State of the State agenda this year.

Schneiderman’s bill, which encompasses both Cuomo’s and de Blasio’s voting reform proposals, will be sponsored in the state Assembly by Assemblymember Michael Cusick, a Staten Island Democrat who chairs the body’s election law committee. “This legislation, aimed to simplify the voting process and improve voter accessibility, will give citizens a better opportunity to participate in the democratic process by increasing voter participation across New York State,” said Cusick, in a statement.

In previous years, similar voting reforms were passed by the Assembly and backed by Senate Democrats, but were ultimately blocked by the GOP Senate Majority. Schneiderman’s sweeping legislation, however, appears to have gained an added push from the Senate’s Independent Democratic Conference (IDC) -- an eight-member body that has formed a ruling coalition with Senate Republicans. The legislation will be sponsored by IDC member Senator David Carlucci, and the body’s seven other members will co-sponsor the bill, IDC member Senator Diane Savino told the Staten Island Advance.

IDC Leader Jeff Klein commended the attorney general’s legislation in a statement, saying, “The Independent Democratic Conference has long been an advocate for making our election process simpler and more accessible for all New Yorkers."

Good government groups, many of which were represented at Wednesday’s news conference, applauded Schneiderman’s proposal to modernize the state electoral system. “New York ranks consistently as one of the nation's worst in terms of voter participation, driven by state laws that create obstacles to voting,” said Megan Ahearn, program director for the New York Public Interest Research Group, “Much of the rest of the nation has developed practices that improve voter turnout. The Attorney General's package relies on those best practices.”

Barbara Bartoletti, Legislative Director for the League of Women Voters of New York State urged the Governor and the Legislature to act on the reform as soon as possible to ensure that voters do not face barriers in future elections. “Laws that would allow for automatic voter registration, early voting, no-excuse absentee voting, and consolidation of primary elections will empower voters and give greater access to the ballot,” she said.

by Rachel Silberstein, State government reporter, Gotham Gazette

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Attorney General Unveils Sweeping Voting Reform Package Thu, 09 Feb 2017 04:28:38 +0000
How New York Voted: 10 Key Takeaways voting nyc

Voting (photo: Edwin J. Torres/Mayor's Office)

A week after Election Day the votes are still being counted, but we know a lot about what happened nationally and here in New York. While the Empire State went decidedly for Hillary Clinton for President, the margin was mostly due to New York City’s overwhelming support for the Democratic nominee over now President-elect Donald Trump. And as we dissect the numbers and watch as Trump’s transition operation unfolds, New Yorkers are watching Long Island, where two state Senate races have yet to be called and could determine party control of the chamber -- which is Republicans’ last statewide stronghold.

There’s much we do know about how New York voted in 2016, and a few things we don’t. An initial look inside the numbers, based on 99% of the vote being tallied in New York as of Tuesday, November 15 (the city Board of Elections is due to certify results Nov. 29):

1. About 7 million people across New York State cast ballots in the presidential race:

  • Democrat Hillary Clinton won about 58.8% of the vote, with 4.1 million votes.
  • Republican Donald Trump 37.5%, with 2.6 million votes
  • Libertarian Gary Johnson 2.3%, with about 162,000 votes
  • Green Party’s Jill Stein 1.4%, with about 100,000 votes

2. Turnout in New York State was about 56.4% of registered voters, of which there are about 12.5 million.

3. Turnout in New York City was about 51% of registered voters, of which there are about 4.9 million.

4. In New York City, Clinton won four of the five New York City boroughs, losing only Staten Island to Trump.

  • In Brooklyn, Clinton won 595,000 votes to Trump’s 134,000.
  • In the Bronx, Clinton won 318,000 votes to Trump’s 34,000.
  • In Manhattan, Clinton won 516,000 votes to Trump’s 59,000.
  • In Queens, Clinton won 473,000 votes to Trump’s 139,000.
  • On Staten Island, Trump won 96,000 votes to Clinton’s 68,000.

That’s a total New York City tally of about 1.97 million votes for Clinton and 462,000 votes for Trump.

5. Across the state, there are 62 counties: Trump won 46, including Staten Island (Richmond County); Clinton won 16, including four in New York City.

Clinton’s other wins included counties of major population centers: Albany, Buffalo, Rochester, Syracuse, and suburbs bordering the city: Westchester, Nassau, and Rockland. She also appears to have won Clinton County, along the state’s northern border, though the margin stands at under 300 votes. Trump won dozens of more rural counties and some more suburban, like Suffolk, Orange, and Putnam.

6. According to a Press & Sun Bulletin analysis, outside of New York City, the margin between Clinton and Trump was virtually nonexistent, with Clinton leading by about 760 votes in initial tallies.

7. The balance of power in the New York State Senate is still unclear, in part because there are two races still too close to call, both on Long Island where incumbent Republicans are attempting to hold onto their seats.

  • Senate District 5: Incumbent Republican Sen. Carl Marcellino leads Democrat James Gaughran by 2,425 votes as of 5 p.m. on November 14. Marcellino has 50.9% while Gaughran has 49.1%.
  • Senate District 8: Democrat John Brooks leads incumbent Republican Sen. Michael Venditto by 33 votes as of 5 p.m. on November 14. Both candidates have 50% of the vote.

Republicans have held a slight edge in the 63-seat chamber in part because Brooklyn Senator Simcha Felder, elected as a Democrat, caucuses with the GOP. The margin is razor thin, and the mainline party with the most members when the two Long Island seats are determined will be in better position to negotiate a power-sharing deal with the seven-member Independent Democratic Conference. Stay tuned!

8. Incumbent Democratic U.S. Senator Charles Schumer won re-election with 70% of the vote across the state, defeating Republican challenger Wendy Long. Schumer will be minority leader in the Senate.

9. The 27-member U.S. House delegation from New York will consist of 18 Democrats and 9 Republicans.

10. The State Assembly continues to be heavily Democratic. While there are still a few seats where the vote is too close to call, the Democrats will hold about 107 of the 150 seats.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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How New York Voted: 10 Key Takeaways Tue, 15 Nov 2016 05:00:00 +0000
5 Things to Watch on Election Day in New York statue of liberty water

(photo: Mayor's Office on Flickr)

Either Hillary Clinton or Donald Trump will be the next President of the United States. When we know which of the two New Yorkers will be number 45 depends on how the vote unfolds. Both candidates will be in New York City on election night: Clinton holding her event at the Javits Center, Trump holding his at the New York Hilton.

The potential historic significance of the Presidential vote should not be overlooked: Hillary Clinton could become the first woman elected President of the United States. For his part, Trump is attempting to complete an almost unfathomable outsider run through to the White House. A political novice best known as a celebrity television personality and real estate mogul, Trump defeated a variety of more traditionally qualified opponents in the Republican primary, has broken many norms of American democratic politics, and run a type of campaign never before seen in this country.

Though there has been some fluctuation, Clinton has maintained a solid lead in the polls, both nationally and in key swing states that will help determine the all-important Electoral College results. Still, this has been an election like no other, and no one is sure what will happen Tuesday.

But beyond the winner of the Presidential race, there are several key things to watch for on Election Day 2016 in New York: 

Along with the Presidential race, there are key contests -- some in New York -- to see which party controls the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives, both of which currently have Republican majorities.

There is a far slimmer margin in the Senate (four seats) and it’s basically a toss-up as to whether Democrats will swing enough seats to take a majority. If they are able to, New York Senator Charles Schumer is set to become Majority Leader. Schumer is up for re-election this year and being challenged by Republican Wendy Long. He is expected to cruise to victory.

Meanwhile, there are several House seats in New York that Republicans are trying to keep in order to maintain their healthy majority in the lower house. One of the most hotly-contested races in New York and the country is in New York’s 19th Congressional District, where Republican John Faso and Democrat Zephyr Teachout vie to replace retiring Rep. Chris Gibson, a Republican. The race, like others, but to a larger degree, has seen a huge influx of money from special interests and the national parties.

The results of the Presidential election and party control in Congress will mean a great deal for the country, and for New York City and State, especially when it comes to federal policy and funding decisions -- particularly regarding infrastructure, immigration, health care, and more. 

Also in New York, all the seats of the state Legislature are on the ballot: 63 Senate seats, 150 Assembly seats. Control of the state Senate, Republicans’ last statewide stronghold, is on the line.

The complicated state Senate math includes about two dozen members of each mainline party, a Democrat who caucuses with Republicans, and a caucus of breakaway Democrats that is set to grow from five to seven. That breakaway group, the Independent Democratic Conference, or IDC, will likely be again able to dictate terms of a coalition power-sharing agreement with one of the mainline conferences. The IDC has been aligned with Republicans for the past several years, but once the Election Day dust clears with a handful of swing seats decided, negotiations will again ramp up. Like with swing seats for the House, the state Senate variables on are Long Island and in the Hudson Valley, as well as a couple of upstate seats. 

While across the country more than 43 million people have already voted, according to NBC News analysis of early voting data, another 85 million or so will vote on Election Day.

In 2012, about 129 million total votes were cast in the presidential election. It was 131 million in 2008, when Barack Obama was first elected.

In New York, there were 7.1 million votes cast in the 2012 presidential election, 2.5 million of which were cast in New York City. Across the state, Obama received about 4.5 million votes to Mitt Romney’s 2.5 million, sending the state’s 29 electoral votes for Obama (270 electoral votes are required to win; Obama won 332). In New York City, Obama received about 1.95 million votes to Romney’s 400,000.

As of November 1, 2016, the state Board of Elections reports that there are 11.5 million registered active voters in New York; 4.5 million of them in New York City. There are 5.7 million active registered Democrats in the state, 2.7 million Republicans, 2.5 million unaffiliated (or "independent") voters, and about 700,000 other active registered voters affiliated with other parties.

Hillary Clinton, a Democrat like Obama, is expected to easily win the state, and overwhelmingly win New York City. How the vote will shake out across the country is less clear in some places, especially this year’s swing states like Pennsylvania, Florida, Nevada, North Carolina, New Hampshire, and a few others. Most projections favor Clinton to win the popular and, more importantly, Electoral College. But, turnout is key, and it is not clear whether Clinton’s ground game and candidacy have whipped up the participation she will need in those key states, or whether Trump’s candidacy has activated enough independents, conservatives, and previously inactive voters to take him over the top.

There’s little mystery in New York, though it will be interesting to see what the margin outside New York City looks like and whether there is significant ticket-splitting by Republicans who don’t vote for Trump but do vote for their local representatives in the House or state Legislature. 

Problems with the New York City Board of Elections are rampant and well-documented. City Comptroller Scott Stringer is auditing the agency, which is actually governed by state law, something Mayor Bill de Blasio has been regularly lamenting over the past year, especially when the BOE improperly removed tens of thousands of Brooklyn voters from the rolls.

De Blasio said last week that he has full faith in the "integrity" of the process and results, but not in the administration or "efficiency" of the voting process across the city’s 1,205 polling places and at BOE headquarters.

The federal Justice Department announced Monday “that its Civil Rights Division plans to deploy more than 500 personnel to 67 jurisdictions in 28 states for the Nov. 8, 2016, general election.” Included among those are both Queens County and Kings County in New York City.

“Although state and local governments have primary responsibility for administering elections, the Civil Rights Division is charged with enforcing the federal voting rights laws that protect the rights of all citizens to access the ballot on Election Day,” reads the DOJ announcement.

Along with general BOE incompetence, there are also concerns about voter intimidation as this fraught, violent presidential campaign comes toward an end. And, there are concerns about the possibility of a terror or cyber attack. On Monday, de Blasio and NYPD officials, including Commissioner James O’Neill, held a press briefing to discuss security measures. The NYPD is on high alert given Election Day and the fact that both Clinton and Trump will be in Manhattan Tuesday evening.

There will be more than 5,000 NYPD officers on patrol Tuesday.

“[W]e know that the eyes of the world will be on New York City,” de Blasio said Monday, about Election Day. “We have an obligation, not only to the people of this city, but to this country to make sure that tomorrow, all through the day, and particularly tomorrow night, goes smoothly and goes well. So we have extraordinary resources in place to do that and we’ll be working very closely with our federal partners.”

As for a cyber threat, NYPD Deputy Commissioner John Miller said Monday, "Working with DoITT – the City’s IT overarching agency – as well as with the FBI and their cyber team, as well as with the NYPD and our cyber people, we have done a survey of the key systems that would affect the City’s ability to respond in emergency [inaudible], as well as systems that have to do with moving information around the election. And we’re very confident that we’re in a good position to declare those systems operating properly, free of any intrusions, and our ability to monitor those things."

Even after all of his shocking statements and maneuvers, Donald Trump sent shockwaves throughout the country, even the world, when he said at the third Presidential debate that he may not accept the results of the election. “I will look at it at the time...I’ll keep you in suspense,” Trump told moderator Chris Wallace of Fox News and all those watching, many with mouth agape. 

And since, Trump has increased his claims of a “rigged” election, casting doubt about how he might react if he is not declared the winner on Tuesday evening. Trump has talked about voter fraud, which studies have shown to be virtually nonexistent, and his belief that the media has been in out to get him. If Trump does lose and even if he does decide not to openly challenge the validity of the results, no one knows what his “concession” speech might sound like. 

If Trump shocks the world, it is all-but-certain that Clinton would concede without calling into question the democratic process, local vote-counters, or any other factors. And, there is of course the off chance of a repeat of the 2000 election between Al Gore and George W. Bush, where a Florida recount was started after there was no clear winner on Election Night, though polls have not indicated that the results have much chance of being that close.

by Ben Max, Gotham Gazette

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5 Things to Watch on Election Day in New York Mon, 07 Nov 2016 05:00:00 +0000
‘Voters of New York’ Adds Human Touch to Civic Outreach Efforts voters of new york

(photo: Voters of New York on Instagram)

On October 14, the deadline for online voter registration in New York, NYC Votes announced the launch of a new project, “Voters of New York,” “which highlights stories from everyday New Yorkers sharing their personal thoughts about voting and why they plan to vote in this election.” An ongoing series of portraits of New Yorkers with their first-person explanations, Voters of New York is meant to spur civic engagement and boost voter turnout.

NYC Votes is the voter engagement arm of the New York City Campaign Finance Board (CFB). Its work includes helping people to register to vote, educating New Yorkers about elections, candidates, and civic life; and encouraging them to get to the polls.

“We were inspired by the “Humans of New York” portrait series to provide a platform where New Yorkers can share their feelings and stories about voting. We hope that their words will inspire more New Yorkers to take part in the election on November 8,” said CFB’s Public Relations Officer Katrina Shakarian.

With Election Day less than three weeks away, efforts to increase New York’s dismal voting rates are in full swing, with political parties, advocacy groups, and others trying to encourage their members to cast a ballot. The recent state legislative primaries, held September 13, saw very low voter turnout, though it was fairly typical for New York in such party primaries. General elections, especially for President, typically bring out more voters, and that is certain to be the case again this year. How many voters is to be seen, but NYC Votes hopes that Voters of New York will contribute to an uptick.

According to the Board of Elections Annual Report 2012, in that year’s presidential election, 58% of registered New York City voters cast ballots. In the 2013 New York City mayoral election, turnout was just 26%. Voter turnout is typically higher for presidential elections than any others.

“Asking a voter on the streets of New York the simple question, ‘Why is voting important to you?’ opens up so many different stories and opinions,” said Jessica Su, a high school student who interned at CFB and collected the interviews, writing in the program’s blog. “My favorite moment from the Voters of New York project was attending a naturalization ceremony and seeing so many joy-filled new citizens celebrating their citizenship. Getting to talk to them and see the enthusiasm they have for their new life as citizens is something I will never forget,” Su added.

The testimonies of the interviewees, which are anonymous, are posted on different social media platforms, including Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, all using the hashtag #votersofnewyork. The interviewee’s picture is featured each time, all wearing a sticker that says “I Registered to Vote.”

The testimonies showcase people who appear to see voting as not only a right, but a responsibility: “I believe in electing people that are going to fight for our communities. If we don’t vote then we can’t complain. We can’t complain, we have to step up,” says one.

A missing sense of responsibility is among a variety of reasons that many New Yorkers do not vote. New York is also known to have antiquated voter registration and voting laws, something some public officials have been fighting to change, but thus far without luck in Albany, the state capital. Right before this year’s deadline to register to vote in the November elections, Mayor Bill de Blasio helped register a few voters in Brooklyn and then held a press conference calling on state lawmakers to pass a series of reforms like same-day voter registration and a period of early voting.

Just nine days before the registration deadline Public Advocate Letitia James and a variety of other officials and organizations held a rally at City Hall to push for emergency action by the United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS) to help clear a massive citizenship application backlog. Nearly 60,000 applications were still pending in the New York City area before the voter registration deadline.

“This year especially we have a presidential election that will change the course of history. So many of these immigrants are soon-to-be citizens, some of them most impacted by this election,” James said during the rally. Extended voter registration at the Board of Elections is available until October 29 for those who became naturalized citizens after the initial deadline on October 14.

In efforts to raise awareness on the importance of voting, another program has also sought to gain more voters. Student Voter Registration Day (SVRD), a one-day program, visited 125 New York City high schools on October 6, with the goal of registering 10,000 eligible students as new voters. To make sure these newly registered voters actually use their voice, NYC Votes recruits volunteers for their Get Out The Vote campaign to call new registered voters before Election Day encouraging them to to vote.

by Milka Nissinen for Gotham Gazette

‘Voters of New York’ Adds Human Touch to Civic Outreach Efforts Thu, 20 Oct 2016 04:00:00 +0000