New Yorkers Make Final Choices in Second Summer Primary After Early Turnout Flop
Just over 3% of eligible voters cast ballots in the five boroughs during the first nine days of voting for new representatives in Congress and the State Senate.
After a chaotic redistricting process that created a second New York primary in late August, the final day of voting began following anemic early turnout figures on a steamy summer Tuesday.
As of Monday, 3.3% of voters with a race in their district had cast ballots in the five boroughs during the nine days of early voting for Primary Day, part two.
That’s down more than two percentage points from the 5.6% of eligible voters who cast ballots during early voting in June for the city’s first primary of the year, which covered the governor’s race and state Assembly.
As of noon Tuesday, the BOE reported that 184,536 people had cast in-person ballots — through early voting and Election Day voting — boosting overall turnout to 8%.
Those figures do not include absentee voting; at least 31,774 absentee ballots had been returned to the city Board of Elections as of Aug. 18, the agency said. Including those, overall turnout in the city would reach at least 9.4%.
By comparison, 12.3% of eligible voters turned out during June’s primary, Gothamist reported.
During the previous midterm election year, in 2018 — during which the city had not yet implemented early voting — overall turnout was just over 39%, the city Campaign Finance Board reported. Turnout for some state-level primaries ranged between 19% and 39%, depending on the district.
But New York’s “bizarre and unique situation” makes comparing Tuesday’s “dog days of summer” primary to any other futile, according to Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause NY, the voting rights and education nonprofit.
“In a major way, the city empties out, and the people who haven’t left the city are at the beach,” she said. “What does turnout tell us about voting? It doesn’t. It tells us, don’t put any elections in August.”
On Tuesday, city voters get their final chance to choose candidates for the House of Representatives and state Senate, but not all New Yorkers have contests in their neighborhoods.
About 2.3 million New Yorkers have competitive races and can cast a ballot in the Aug. 23 contest, according to the city Board of Elections, down more than a million from the 3.6 million people who had been eligible in the city’s June primary.
Stylianos Karolidis, a 28-year-old volunteer for state Senate candidate Kristen Gonzalez, said Tuesday morning that turnout had been low at Long Island City High School, where he set up a table with leaflets.
But “the people that are turning out are very favorable,” he said.
“They’re not just coming out for a single candidate, they’re coming out for a movement,” Karolidis added.
In the Fordham section of The Bronx, 28-year-old Diana Rankins and a co-worker at a local preschool said they felt uninterested in voting because they felt their votes didn’t count, and they don’t really know the candidates running.
“Look at this lady. Who’s that? We don’t know who she is,” she said, pointing at a photo posted on a tree of Miguelina Camilo, who is running against Gustavo Rivera in Senate District 33. “She’s a Democrat, but we don’t know who she is. Nobody talked about her.”
Find out if you have a primary contest in your area by seeing your sample ballot through the city Board of Elections address look-up tool. Remember: Even if you are in a district that has no congressional primary — as is the case for those represented by Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez (D-The Bronx/Queens), Gregory Meeks (D-Queens), Ritchie Torres (D-The Bronx) and others — you could have a state Senate seat to vote on.
THE CITY’s interactive redistricting map can show you where your new district falls and who’s running in each place.
‘Too Much Shenanigans’
Primary Day part two is marked by some fiercely competitive races, including in a newly drawn, deep blue district in Lower Manhattan where a dozen Democrats are duking it out to become the new member of Congress there. Also in Manhattan, two longtime incumbents — Reps. Carolyn Maloney and Jerrold Nadler — have been forced to run against each other in the primary.
The candidates — and special interest groups — have been spending big to influence the smaller-than-usual voter pool. In NY-10, former prosecutor and Levi Strauss fortune heir Daniel Goldman has spent at least $4 million of his own money on his campaign, The New York Times reported.
Those contests were shaped by a redistricting process that began last year but was thrown into disarray when New York’s highest court ruled this spring that the state’s new maps for Congress and state Senate — drawn by the Democratic-controlled Albany legislature — were gerrymandered and unconstitutional, and threw them out.
The court ordered an outside expert to redraw the districts, and also ordered New York to push back the primaries for those offices.
The state Board of Elections kept its original June primary date for some races — including governor and state Assembly — but pushed back the House and state Senate races until August.
That move has contributed to a political season marked by a distinct lack of attention. Ahead of the last weekend of early voting, few voters THE CITY spoke with had the primary on their minds.
Tasha Smith, a 43-year-old Canarsie resident, said she hasn’t been following the election cycle and wasn’t planning to vote. A former voter, she said “hypocrisy” from politicians in recent years has turned her off from the process.
“There’s too much different shenanigans,” she said. “They all come with different agendas. They say they’re gonna do something but they don’t do anything.”
Tanisha Jones, a 35-year-old case worker from Brooklyn, felt the same way broadly — “A lot of politicians say they’re going to do things, but don’t actually do it,” she said — but is still excited to vote for Mondaire Jones in the new 10th congressional district.
“He’s for the people. I’m looking forward to seeing what he’s going to do,” she said. “I hope people actually come out and vote.”
Lerner said it’s “impossible to predict” how many New Yorkers will be engaged in the August primary.
“This is why you don’t split your elections into two,” she said.
Adding to the confusion are a series of changes from the city Board of Elections that could muddle the process further: Voting sites changed for 86,500 voters between the June and August primaries, as THE CITY reported in July. (Double check your own voting site with the BOE’s address lookup tool here.) Gothamist also reported that the BOE sent 17,000 voting notices to voters printed with the wrong congressional and state Senate districts.