The Bronx Votes: Meaning in a 'Meaningless' Election

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A 4 train pulls into the Bedford Park Avenue station.

Photo by: Adam E. Moreira

A 4 train pulls into the Bedford Park Avenue station.

No county in true-blue New York state boasts a higher proportion of Democratic voters than the Bronx, where Republicans face an 11-to-one enrollment disadvantage, there were eight Barack Obama votes for every John McCain ballot four years ago, and Republicans aren't even contesting half the state legislative races in the borough this year.

In the most expensive election in U.S. history, with the fate of the presidency possibly hinging on how a few counties in Ohio vote, and with control of the Senate to be decided in suburban Connecticut and central Pennsylvania, the Bronx is pretty far from the action.

But even though Bronx votes were taken for granted in 2004, lines still stretched along the sidewalk at rush hour as people waited to cast their vote for George W. Bush or John Kerry. And while there was no suspense about the outcome in 2008, there was still a long and celebratory wait at polling places in the borough. This year, though the rest of the country will take little notice, Bronxites by the hundreds of thousands will exercise their franchise.

That's a story in itself, but as a reporting partnership between City Limits and City University of New York Graduate School of Journalism's NYC News Service learned, there are other storylines playing out in the Bronx during the final act of campaign 2012:

  • There's a six-way race in the northeast Bronx to replace convicted City Councilmember Larry Seabrook. A year before the 2013 municipal elections, it's the only contest for a city-level post on the ballot anywhere in New York this November.
  • Students at Bronx Community College took on the personas of President Obama and Gov. Mitt Romney to debate the issues as teachers report an unusually high level of engagement in the race on campus.
  • The Bronx Green Party, a small progressive force, is trying to capitalize on the widespread dissatisfaction with major party candidates. Their success might be measured not in whether or not they win, but how much of a dent they make in the victor's margin.
  • Despite the outcome of almost every race in the borough being a foregone conclusion, the Bronx Young Democrats will be pushing for higher turnout with a borough-wide get-out-the-vote operation.
  • In the borough's ethnic enclaves, emerging immigrant communities will continue shaping their political identity. The Bangladeshis of Parkchester are one such group.
  • Amid a sea of liberal Democratic sentiment, Republican voters on City Island and a conservative blogger in Kingsbridge seek to get their voices heard. Meanwhile, some Democrats aren't thrilled about Obama's record.
  • After a series of elections hampered by problems with the voting process, there are concerns about voting machines in areas like Morris Park, and there are efforts to prevent disenfranchisement using smart-phone technology. The impact of Hurricane Sandy, which has forced changes to several polling locations in the Bronx, adds a wild card.

    On Election Day, CityWire will be following these shorelines and more with up-to-the-minute blog posts, photos, video and more. Sign up for updates here.

    CUNY's Tim Harper and Colleen Long were instrumental in conceiving and coordinating this project

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