New York’s Disappearing Voters

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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

Some Advice To President and Congress

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The press events by President Obama and congressional leaders this week after Election Day demonstrate the tension between Democrats and Republicans in DC, not that this is any surprise, yet it was troubling the President still claims he will bypass Congress by using his alleged executive authority to reform our flawed immigration system. While there is little doubt that immigration reform has been delayed too long – including both a path to citizenship for the tens of millions of illegal residents and better border security – serious legal, political and policy questions exist as to whether this is a thoughtful action by the President. He appears inconsistent after speaking throughout the week about the need for cooperation and bipartisanship. President Obama needs to be more respectful of Tuesday’s election results as a New York Times analysis of the exit polls found:

“Just two years after Mr. Obama’s re-election, the midterm results underscored just how far he has fallen in the public mind. Nearly six out of 10 voters on Tuesday expressed negative feelings about his administration, according to exit polls. For every two voters who said they had cast ballots to support Mr. Obama, three said they were voting to express their opposition to him. The electorate was deeply pessimistic about the country, with seven out of 10 describing the economy as not so good or poor and eight out of 10 expressing worry about the direction of the economy in the next year.”

Meanwhile, congressional Republicans should end the victory lap and roll up their sleeves for serious governing over the next two years. Despite the GOP’s success in the 2010 midterm elections, the 2012 elections brought major losses, and they may face similar losses in 2016 if they are deemed to be the cause of further gridlock and partisanship. There is only one path to 2016 GOP election success and that is governing in a bipartisan and cooperative manner, and the GOP must work better with President Obama. Yes, it will be difficult as the President’s record on bipartisan governance is weak. In watching the President over the last 6 years, it often appears that his definition of bipartisanship is that he proposes a law and the Republicans should just vote for it – see Obamacare. Regardless, if the Republicans want 2016 success, GOP congressional leaders MUST govern in an open, inclusive and bipartisan way for two important reasons:

1)  The US Senate map is much more difficult for the GOP in 2016. Republicans will be defending 24 Senate seats in 2016 (and the Democrats just 10), and those states include Illinois, Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, New Hampshire and Florida – all won by President Obama twice.

2) The 2016 presidential election will be tough for the GOP.  A CNN article explains how both parties now have a “wall” of states that are reliable in presidential elections. The Democrat “Blue Wall” is 18 states and DC equaling 242 electoral votes. The Republican “Red Wall” is 22 states equaling 179 electoral votes. This, of course, is an enormous edge for the Democrat candidate since it takes 270 to win. Republicans will need an impressive record of results and bipartisan governing over the next two years to have any hope of competing in the states included in the Democrat’s “Blue Wall.”

So here’s my advice to the President and Congress – Tuesday’s election results clearly demonstrate that the country wants you to govern together in a cooperative and bipartisan manner. If Republicans or Democrats fail to accept this advice, you will be punished at the polls by the voters in 2016 – they are giving you a two year test, so good luck!

Jim Maisano
Jim@FreeVoter.com