During my lifetime, for the even years when we are not voting for president but voting for such important officials like Governor, Attorney General, Comptroller, US Senate, Congress, State Senate and State Assembly, New York State’s voter turnout of registered voters has been cut in half. Yes, when I was a little 3-year-old back in 1966, the voter turnout for those that chose a Governor in an exciting four-way race between Nelson Rockefeller (Republican), Frank O’Connor (Democrat), Paul Adams (Conservative) and Franklin Deleno Roosevelt Jr. (Liberal) was over 60%. Our recent race between Andrew Cuomo (Democrat), Rob Astorino (Republican) and Howie Hawkins (Green) had the lowest turnout election watchers can remember – about 31% of registered voters. See chart above for voter turnout in Governor election years since 1966. (Note: it’s possible turnout from 1966 to 1990 was a bit higher as it was difficult to track down the exact data, but I believe my percents are good estimates).
It’s shocking that so many New Yorkers are failing to respect their civic duty to let their voices be heard on Election Day. We can all speculate about the reasons for this massive drop in voting: negative campaigns, people turned off by modern day politics or working too hard/no time to vote, so many uncontested races, or New York’s embarrassing political corruption. But frankly, as a very busy person who always finds time to study the candidates and make it to the polls, there is just no excuse for failing to vote. Less than one-third of New York’s registered voters just picked our federal and state elected representatives. As a comparison, North Carolina, which did have massive amounts of money spent on one of the featured US Senate races, had a 44% turnout. I worked on Governor George Pataki’s exciting victory in 1994 and that campaign had a much more respectable turnout of 53%. Election Day 2014 was not a victory for democracy in New York State.Jim Maisano Jim@FreeVoter.com