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New Project to Prepare Voters for Historic 2021 New York City Elections


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New York City voters will have a lot to decide in 2021 (photo: Michael Appleton/Mayoral Photography Office)


Gotham Gazette will be an integral part of a major new project led by its parent organization, Citizens Union Foundation, aimed at educating voters in advance of the historic, immensely-important 2021 New York City elections.

In 2021, New York City voters will elect a new Mayor and Comptroller, at least four new Borough Presidents, and dozens of new City Council members. The rest of city government will also be on the ballot, including seats where incumbents are expected: Public Advocate, Queens Borough President, and roughly 15 City Council posts in the 51-seat body.

The project, ElectNYC, will include a voters guide website with information on offices, races, and candidates; original reporting, led by Gotham Gazette; an education and outreach campaign, including local candidate debates; and more. It will be led by veteran journalist Eleanor Randolph, who was on the New York Times editorial board for 20 years, and a team under her direction, working closely with the Gotham Gazette team under the leadership of executive editor Ben Max.

ElectNYC -- to be found at ElectNYC.org -- will include a special focus on City Council races in communities with traditionally low voter turnout and little local media coverage.

Citizens Union Foundation is a nonpartisan good government organization focused on voter education and government accountability. For more than 20 years, CUF’s most prominent program has been publishing Gotham Gazette, a highly-regarded, independent online news publication that covers New York city and state government and politics. Gotham Gazette is known for its in-depth policy and political coverage, election guides, morning newsletter, The Eye-Opener, and its tough accountability reporting with particular focus on the Mayor, City Council, Governor, and State Legislature, among other powerful figures and institutions.

In conjunction with the Gotham Gazette staff, Citizens Union Foundation is launching ElectNYC, run by Randolph and her growing team. Citizens Union Foundation executive director Betsy Gotbaum, former Public Advocate of New York City, serves as publisher of both Gotham Gazette and ElectNYC.

A nonpartisan voter education effort, ElectNYC will provide New Yorkers with crucial information about next year’s local New York City elections, which will usher in massive turnover in city government. Leaders elected next year will take over at an especially important time given the crises the city is dealing with, and they could hold office for most of the rest of the decade.

Somewhere in the neighborhood of 500 candidates are expected to run for the more than 60 city government seats that will be on the ballot, with only a small portion of those seats held by incumbents seeking reelection.

As is usually the case in New York City, most of the action will take place in Democratic primaries, given the city’s overwhelming Democratic voter registration tilt. For the first time, those primaries will be in June next year, meaning even greater importance of voter education sooner rather than later. Another key aspect of the coming city elections is the first-time implementation of ranked-choice voting, which will be in place for all special elections and party primary elections (but not general elections) for New York City government positions.

Voters will need to be educated on ranked-choice voting, which will allow them to rank up to five candidates in such elections and seeks to ensure that the winners of crowded and competitive elections have a broad base of support.

“Next year’s elections will transform New York City for generations to come,” said Gotbaum in announcing ElectNYC, which has started to raise money for the project and secured early support from the Ford Foundation. Gotbaum mentioned the turnover in city government and the start of ranked-choice voting, adding, “The turmoil of 2020 has shown us how important it is to have dependable government leaders. It is crucial that New Yorkers have accurate, unbiased information so they can make the best choices for themselves, their families and their communities.”

ElectNYC will hire journalists to cover local races, build a user-friendly website, and disseminate information about the elections in communities throughout the five boroughs through traditional and social media campaigns, and host local candidate debates. While paying special attention to races in underserved communities with low voter turnout, the project will also partner with local community-based nonprofits to help reach residents of those neighborhoods. 

“Our mission for the 2021 elections is straightforward. We plan to present New Yorkers with no-nonsense, non-partisan information about the candidates in this complex and important election,” said Randolph, who also stressed the void left by shrinking local news coverage. Voters need “trustworthy guidance about who the candidates are, how they would run the city, and how to cast a vote,” she added, and ElectNYC will provide just that.

For most New Yorkers, even those who follow politics and government affairs closely, the 2021 city elections will simply be overwhelming. ElectNYC will help make sure it is less so, while ensuring that voters have information they need and can engage with local politics and elections that are so essential to their future and that of New York City.

“In partnership with this new project, Gotham Gazette will expand its well-known, local political coverage to bring New Yorkers the essential, insightful information they need to actively participate in one of the most significant local election cycles in the city’s history,” said Max. Gotham Gazette has already begun covering the 2021 city elections, and will only be ramping up that coverage in the coming weeks and months, doing so in partnership with ElectNYC.

To learn more, visit ElectNYC.org.



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