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



Less than a quarter of the registered voters in New York City decided who will be mayor, public advocate, comptroller and sit in every City Council seat come January.

Turnout in New York City’s municipal elections continued its years-long flat line Tuesday with no more than 1.2 million votes cast — a turnout rate no better than 24 percent, an analysis of data from the Board of Elections shows.

It’s in line with the previous abysmal turnouts posted in every mayoral election since 2005, in which no more than 1.3 million votes has been cast in a city that now has more than 4.9 million registered voters.

Nearly complete Board of Elections returns shows that 1.02 million New Yorkers cast ballots for mayor during early voting and on Election Day. Additionally, nearly 181,000 absentee ballots were mailed out as well, of which almost 75,000 had made their way back to the BOE as of Tuesday.

That means that the number of ballots cast in the mayoral election sits between 1.09 million and 1.2 million — right in line with the 1.15 million votes cast for mayor in 2009 and 2017, which was slightly more than the 1.09 million cast 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 Nov. 2, 2021.
Matthew McDermott

However, it is a slight improvement over the number of votes cast for mayor in the city’s usually decisive Democratic primary in June, when 942,000 New Yorkers showed up to pick the party’s mayoral nominee — a contest Mayor-elect Eric Adams narrowly won.

Those initial returns show that Staten Island — where Republicans turned out for Curtis Sliwa, who carried the borough while losing all others handily — posted the highest turnout rate during early voting and on Election Day, with 31 percent of registered voters casting ballots.

Staten Islanders also had two other hotly contested races to draw them to the polls, including a competitive race for borough president and a hard-fought battle over one of the island’s three Council seats.

Only 24 percent of voters participated in the election on Tuesday, according to the Board of Elections.
Only 24 percent of city voters participated went to the pools on Election Day, according to the BOE.
Niyi Fote/TheNEWS2 via ZUMA Press Wire

Manhattan, usually a high-turnout powerhouse in city politics, came in second with an anemic early vote and Election Day turnout of just 23 percent — a number that grows to just 28 percent if every absentee ballot mailed back is returned and deemed valid.

None of the borough-wide or Council races there were remotely competitive.

Meanwhile, just 20 percent of voters in Queens and Brooklyn cast ballots during early voting and on Election Day — a figure that only reaches 24 percent, assuming all absentees are mailed back.

Staten Island hat the highest voter turnout of the five boroughs with 31 percent.
Staten Island had the highest voter turnout of the five boroughs with 31 percent.
Niyi Fote/TheNEWS2 via ZUMA Press Wire

The Bronx posted the lowest turnout of all the boroughs, with just 15 percent casting ballots at the polls. Turnout there will only reach 18 percent, if every absentee comes back.

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


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