Less than 1/4 of NYC voted in the 2021 election despite all seats up for grabs

Less than a quarter of New York City registered voters decided who should be mayor, public defender, inspector, and sit in each city council seat in January.

Turnout in New York City’s local elections continued its year-long flat line on Tuesday with no more than 1.2 million votes cast – a turnout no better than 24 percent, an analysis of data from the election board shows.

This is in line with the previous gruesome turnout in every mayoral election since 2005, when no more than 1.3 million votes were cast in a city that now has more than 4.9 million registered voters.

Almost complete returns from the election board show that 1.02 million New Yorkers cast ballots for the mayor during early voting and on election day. In addition, nearly 181,000 absentee ballots were also sent out, of which nearly 75,000 had returned to the BOE by Tuesday.

This means that the number of ballot papers cast in the mayoral election is between 1.09 million and 1.2 million – in line with the 1.15 million votes cast for the mayor in 2009 and 2017, which was slightly more than the 1 .09 million submitted in 2013.

A man voting at Frank McCourt High School in the Upper West Side on November 2, 2021. Only
A man votes at Frank McCourt High School on the Upper West Side on November 2, 2021.
Matthew McDermott

However, that is a slight improvement over the number of votes cast for mayor in the city’s normally crucial Democratic primary in June, with 942,000 New Yorkers running to elect the party’s mayoral candidate – a contest elected mayor Eric Adams narrowly won.

These initial returns show that Staten Island – where Republicans appeared for Curtis Sliwa, who carried the borough while losing everyone else – had the highest turnout during early voting and on election day, with 31 percent of registered voters cast ballots.

The State Islanders also had two other highly controversial races to drag them to the ballot box, including a competitive race for the city president and a fierce battle for one of the island’s three council seats.

Only 24 percent of voters participated in the election on Tuesday, the election board said.
Only 24 percent of the city’s voters who participated went to the pool on election day, according to the BOE.
Niyi Fote / TheNEWS2 via ZUMA Press Wire

Manhattan, which is usually a powerhouse with high turnout in urban politics, came in second with an anemic early voting and turnout of just 23 percent – a figure that grows to just 28 percent if every absentee ballot sent back is returned and considered too valid.

None of the neighborhoods or Council races that were remotely competitive.

Meanwhile, only 20 percent of Queens and Brooklyn voters cast ballots during early voting and on election day – a figure that only reaches 24 percent, provided all absentees are sent back.

The state of Iceland has the highest turnout of the five districts with 31 percent.
The state of Iceland had the highest turnout of the five boroughs with 31 percent.
Niyi Fote / TheNEWS2 via ZUMA Press Wire

The Bronx had the lowest turnout of all constituencies, with only 15 percent of ballots cast at polling stations. The turnout there will only reach 18 percent if all absentees return.

BOE officials did not immediately disclose the number of preliminary ballots cast Tuesday, but the number is typically small.


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