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And now back to regularly scheduled programming from our elections reporter!
It’s not over yet.
Welcome to the 12th edition of this NYC election-focused newsletter, now coming to you post-election. I’m independent journalist Felipe De La Hoz, and I’m writing to you as our long-awaited primary day has come and gone, making way for the vote counting. And I want to remind you all, we very much remain at the counting phase; you may already be seeing some preliminary results and even post-election political analysis out there, but this election is not over. While it’s true that we have some certainties — Andrew Yang, long considered one of the frontrunners, had an unexpectedly weak showing and already conceded — the outcome of the mayoral election, or indeed the Council races, is not one of them.
Yes, Eric Adams has a decent lead so far, but not one so vast as to assure his victory, and certainly not in the first round. It doesn’t appear that any candidate will even remotely approach the 50-percent-plus-one threshold of first-choice votes required to win outright after the first count. Once all of the absentee ballots ballots and affidavit votes are collected and counted, we’ll be heading for round two, and probably round three after that. The winner of the first round is more often than not the ultimate victor, but that’s not guaranteed.
Some of the delays are happening for a positive reason, which is that, in contrast to a number of voting-restrictionist state legislative proposals around the country right now, New York has moved to safeguard voting access. In practice, this means we’re awaiting tens of thousands of absentee mail ballots, which unlike in previous elections, did not require voters to present a specific reason for voting absentee. There will be a separate process to allow voters to correct any possible errors their ballots may have, meaning that the official counting might not really begin in earnest until after the first week in July. Patience is now the name of the game.
The numbers we’re seeing now are largely those of in-person early and election-day voters, and so far they’re somewhat encouraging from a sheer turnout perspective. We’re far from having any type of final numbers, but some estimates pointed to a total of around 900,000 votes cast, which would be higher than the roughly 700,000 votes cast for the 2013 municipal primaries, the last time there was an open race for mayor. In real terms, that would still be a pretty meager turnout of about 21 percent of the city’s roughly 4.26 million registered Democratic and Republican voters (an additional 1 million registered independents are not permitted to vote in the party primaries), but municipal elections on federal off years have tended to have poor turnout. It’s also obviously a small percentage of the city’s total 6.6 million adults, though it’s worth noting that around a million adult residents are ineligible to vote at all due to a lack of citizenship.
Insofar as there were big takeaways from the election so far, a main takeaway might be that despite the unpredictability of the last year, the mayoral race itself (barring the unforeseen derailment of a couple candidates’ campaigns) is turning out pretty similar to what political observers expected at the very beginning, which is to say, Adams in the lead and Yang failing to break through. Adams has been arguably gunning for this post for decades, and it’s easy to forget just how formidable a force a political machine can be for a candidate who has longtime and multifaceted political connections and decent name recognition.
Some are calling this a defeat for progressives, but that’s not entirely true in the sense that there wasn’t ultimately a strong progressive candidate to carry the cause. On the City Council front, former public defender and candidate for Queens District Attorney Tiffany Cabán, a progressive rising star, was sweeping the race for district 22 (which includes Astoria, Woodside, Jackson Heights, and other neighborhoods), getting within striking distance of an outright win on the first round despite having been outraised by opponent Evie Hantzopoulos (who chatted with us about open streets). Cabán is also one of the candidates poised to make women the majority in the City Council after years of persistent underrepresentation.
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Among those who did vote on election day Tuesday, there was generally a lot of enthusiasm for the new ranked-choice voting system.
Outside of the PS 161 polling place in Crown Heights:
Karen teaches at the Medgar Evers College English department: She enjoyed being able to rank candidates because her union, the Professional Services Council, had endorsed Scott Stringer, but she was leaning towards Maya Wiley. She trusted that the union would select the candidate best for her workplace and the CUNY system writ large, but “my life is beyond that, you know?” She appreciated that she could put Wiley first and Stringer second, taking the union’s recommendation, but also expressing her own preference. “Earlier I was looking at Eric Adams, but too much nonsense was coming out with that guy. Lives in Jersey, fake house,” she said. [Full disclosure: I am also a member of the PSC.]
Adam Graubart, 24: “It was nice to be able to vote my conscience instead of having to strategize just about one candidate.” Graubart ranked Wiley first, García second, and filled out all five rankings without either Yang or Adams because “he felt that an Adams or Yang mayoralty would be dangerous for the city, and regressive for the city.” Among the issues he named as animating was the rise in gun violence in the neighborhood, though he emphasized that he believed “the police have been ineffective here for a long time despite a very visible presence” and Wiley’s approach of investing in services and crime prevention instead of enforcement was the way to go.
Anderson Lewis: The only voter we spoke to who did not like ranked-choice, Lewis believed that in a one-shot election without primaries and without rankings, just all candidates running at once. “I think it should be, every vote should count as one,” he said. Despite having the option of ranking multiple candidates, he chose to just fill in his first choice for every race.
Outside of Lower East Side Girls Club polling place in Alphabet City:
Paula Ewin, 65, actress: “I think it brings your attention to the other candidates, right. And you really have to ask yourself, ‘Well, if my choice didn’t win, who’s my second choice?’ ” Ewin ranked García first because of her “chutzpah,” as it must have been very tough to run the sanitation department. She ranked Adams second, and Yang last. Like many voters, she said she was worried about shootings, which she fretted might keep tourists away from the city. She remembers moving to Times Square in 1980, and emphasized that “we don’t want the city to go back in time to those days,” though she agrees that the police haven’t always made the situation better. Instead of defunding or reducing headcount, Ewin believes police should be retrained. Another major concern is affordable housing: she had been able to get cheap rent and eventually buy her longtime unit due to affordable financing. “I am a beneficiary of a tax break for development, and because of that, I was able to be an actress,” and she’s concerned that kind of thing is no longer possible in contemporary New York.
Cándida “Candy” Colón: The longtime Alphabet City resident said that she’s been in the neighborhood so long she’s watched some of the local kids grow up to be the poll workers now manning the polling place. “I know everybody around here because I’ve been living here for years and years and years. My kids were born and raised here,” she said. She hadn’t been too familiar with the ranked-choice system before she arrived to vote, but found it to be decently intuitive. Among her top issues was education, “because I have grandkids that are here too.”
Madison Hechler works in real estate: “If you vote for one person and they don’t win, your vote’s kind of not relevant. So I liked that if that person didn’t win, I could at least have a say elsewhere.” Hechler ranked García first, followed by Shaun Donovan and Yang. She said that people in her office had actually gotten together to strategize about how to rank their candidates, an opportunity only really presented by this type of election. “A lot of the times when people just go to the polls, it’s about recognition, but now you can be a little more widely aware,” she said. Among her top issues was the city’s Covid-19 recovery, which she described as including both economic recovery and public safety. For the latter, her priority was “responsible crime management, and not just throwing people in jail,” such as through “social initiatives or economic investment into education.”
What we’re reading:
Six Takeaways From City Council Results
How The Left is Hoping to Reshape the New York City Council
This newsletter was written by Felipe De La Hoz for URL Media, a network of Black and Brown news and information outlets. Our collaborative elections coverage is sponsored by a grant from the Center for Cooperative Media.