Local turnout plummets once again
While Bill de Blasio celebrated what many called a historic victory in the race to succeed Michael Bloomberg as mayor, another kind of history was being made as well: the city’s voters stayed home in record numbers.
Only one million of the four million eligible voters voted in New York City.
In Mott Haven, Melrose and Port Morris, the turnout was even lower.
In the 84th Assembly District, which covers much of Mott Haven, Melrose and Port Morris, just 14.8 percent of the eligible voters–9,711 of the 65,459 registered—went to the polls.
“We want to see change, but what can they change?” asked Luis Acosta, 54.
Dayrin Rias, 20, and Julio Torres Santana, 28, explained that their neighbors have several jobs as well as families, which leaves them little time to vote.
“They don’t get involved,” Rias said.
“A lot of people feel that their votes don’t really count,” added Santana.
“The turnout is low in the South Bronx because of poverty, language barriers, the unwillingness of local political leadership to reach out and do voter registration,” said Kenneth Sherrill, professor emeritus of political science at Hunter College, who studies elections. He added that difficulties in their daily life reduce registered voters’ motivation to cast a ballot.
The turnout this year was even worse than it had been four years ago, when 11,144 residents of the 84th Assembly district voted, 16.7 percent of the registered voters.
Analyzing the factors that kept turnout low in 2009, a report by graduate students at NYU’s Wagner School of Public Service for the city’s Campaign Finance Board highlighted Bronx Community Districts 1 and 2, encompassing Mott Haven, Melrose, Port Morris, Hunts Point and Longwood, as communities with exceptionally low turnout.
Like Sherril, the report blamed poverty, lack of education, a high rate of transience and language barriers. It also noted that young people were less likely to vote than their elders.
“Yesterday, I voted and when I arrived to my local voting station, all I saw were people who were probably 30 and up voting, not really anyone 18 to 24,” said Melrose resident George Sorrentini, 47.
Those interviewed who did take the time to vote said they were moved by the issues de Blasio campaigned on.
After she finished her shopping for groceries on East 138th Street, Mary Murray headed to her home on East 143rd Street, where she has lived for 37 years. A registered Democrat, Murray said she believed de Blasio would work more effectively than his opponent Joe Lhota on such issues as jobs, insurance and the needs of low-income communities.
Yenny Laracuente, 38, who emigrated from the Dominican Republic, registered as a voter a year ago. Though she had missed the chance to vote in 2009, Laracuente made her choice this Election Day.
“I like de Blasio,” said Laracuente, “I like his plan that he will work more to help poor people.”
But Anna Rodriguez was unconvinced. Said Rodriguez, a registered Democrat who voted in the presidential election, but felt no interest in this mayoral campaign, “I don’t like neither of them.”