New York voters must do better
Going into Election Day 2019, there was an expectation among those connected
to city politics that turnout would be abysmal — as most off-year
elections are in New York City.
There were no major races to speak of — just one citywide election for public
advocate, a handful of district attorney races that were virtually uncompetitive,
several judgeships in each borough and fi ve ballot questions. You might say it was
the calm before the 2020 political storm.
However, the one wild card in this election was the arrival of early voting in New
The city’s Board of Elections set up dozens of polling sites across the fi ve boroughs
and opened them for nine days ahead of the Nov. 5 election, giving every
New Yorker a chance to cast their vote on their schedule, at their convenience.
But when all was said and done, the city BOE reported, just a little more than
60,000 New Yorkers bothered to participate in early voting this election cycle.
As of Nov. 1, according to the New York State Board of Elections, there were
5,270,384 registered voters in the fi ve boroughs.
The turnout was a little more than 1 percent of the entire registered voter population
in New York City.
The city worked hard to inform people about early voting, buying ad space in
print and digital media, and engaging in social media campaigns. And yet, early
voting barely moved the needle.
It was a harbinger, of course, for weak turnout on Election Day itself.
When all was said and done, in combining the early and Election Day ballots,
about 13.7% of all registered New York voters participated in the 2019 general
election — yet another poor showing for democracy in The Big Apple.
We know this was a very boring election cycle, and many of us are already looking
ahead to 2020. We’re also very confi dent that more New Yorkers will take
advantage of early voting next year when the stakes are far higher.
But come on, New York.
We need to do better than 1 percent early voting this year, or 13.7 percent total
turnout this election cycle, or the 23 percent turnout in the 2017 mayoral election.
“Every vote counts” is the mantra for every election, and it’s true. All of us need
to realize that every election is incredibly important, and not participating is an
abdication of our civic duty.
President Franklin D. Roosevelt said it best: “Nobody will ever deprive the
American people of the right to vote except the American people themselves, and
the only way they could do this is by not voting.”
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Anna Clark and Al McGrath at a 1989 fundraiser. (Villager photo by Tom
The front page of The Villager on Jan. 12, 1989, included a photo from a
fundraiser for a LaGuardia memorial project, which Friends of LaGuardia
Place hoped would lead to a statue for Mayor Fiorello LaGuardia on the
Greenwich Village block.
Pictured in the photo is Anna Clark, one-time secretary to LaGuardia
(1882-1947), who was mayor from 1934-45 and who was born at 177 Sullivan
St. in Little Italy. On the right is Al McGrath, president of the Friends
The object in the center is a model of the Neil Estern sculpture which the
group hoped to install. The statue would be unveiled in 1994 and is still on
LaGuardia Place, between Bleecker and West Third streets.
— Gabe Herman
12 November 7, 2019 Schneps Media