New York by Numbers (1)


Midterm Election Recap, 2018

On Tuesday, November 6th, some 1,951,704 New Yorkers went to the polls. We chose a governor, senator, state representatives, and congressional delegates. Out of our 4,613,320 active registered voters, the ones who came forward notched us a 42.3% participation mark — our best in 20 years!




(1) The Good

Since posting a 45% turnout rate back in 1998, we’d been steadily avoiding these every-four-year affairs, dropping all the way down to 25% in 2014. This time around though, all five boroughs scored well above that nadir:


Manhattan: 48.5%

Staten Island: 45.9%

Brooklyn: 41.6%

Queens: 40.5%

The Bronx: 36.5%


But, ultimately, there were a few things missing: all the other people, for one.



(2) The Bad

Although 2,661,616 New Yorkers were “actively registered” for this election, they decided not to vote. What’s worse, 527,859 others couldn’t cast a ballot because they were stuck in “inactive registered” status. As the Board of Elections requires, all they had to do was verify their home address 20 days before November 6th to be activated; but, as of October 22nd, they hadn’t. So, if all our actives and inactives were added up, this is what would happen to our numbers:


Eligible Voters (4,613,320 Actives + 527,859 Inactives): 5,141,179 

Votes Cast: 1,951,704

Participation Rate: 37.9%


Yep, our turnout rate falls below 40%. And all those no-shows affected something else: amendments to the City Charter.



(3) The Ugly

This cycle, Mayor Bill de Blasio added three proposals to the ballot. Roughly speaking, the first sought to revise a campaign finance law, the second sought to create a new entity called the “Civic Engagement Commission,” and the third sought to place term limits on all members of our Community Boards. To vote on each, you had to review a separate sheet attached to the ballot. Oddly enough, the poll worker at my precinct explained to me — and this is a quote — “You don’t have to vote for anything if you don’t want to.” What? But I showed up to vote!

Well, apparently that message was repeated across the city. And, as data from the Board of Elections reveals, about 525,000 New Yorkers who cast a ballot listened and neglected the proposals. On the other hand, some who considered them were quite perplexing: They abstained from one or two of the initiatives altogether. Despite the confusion though, each proposal passed, albeit with fewer people lending their input:


Votes Cast: 1,951,704

Average Number of Voters Who Completed Their Ballots: 1,424,236

Ballot Initiative Participation Rate: 73.0%


Actually, the results are more distressing if you consider this:


Eligible Voters: 5,141,179

Average Number of Voters Who Completed Their Ballots: 1,424,236

Ballot Initiative Participation Rate: 27.7%




So, in a sprawling city of 8.6 million people, a mere 1.4 million — or 16% of the population — determined the fate of three proposals for everyone else. And now they’re laws. One will even add more bureaucracy to the ledger. How do we get more people to help decide these things in the future?



The Liberty Tower at 55 Liberty Street. Photo by Rick Stachura. July 10, 2018.


Photo by Rick Stachura. The Liberty Tower, 55 Liberty Street. July 10, 2018.



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