Looming State Elections Met With Apathy by Many New Yorkers

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The four districts with elections on Tuesday, April 24. Clockwise from top left: State Senate District 32 in the Bronx, Assembly District 80 in the Bronx, Assembly District 39 in Queens and Assembly District 74 in Manhattan.


This story is a product of the City Limits Accountability Reporting Initiative For Youth (CLARIFY), supported by the Pinkerton Foundation. Learn more about the program here. 

New York state elections will take place this fall, giving residents the chance to cast a vote for federal representatives as well as candidates for state senate, assembly, governor and other statewide offices.

But some New Yorkers are indifferent about the upcoming election, saying they either don’t know who the candidates are or don’t follow local politics enough to care.

“I do not follow politics. I do not care about minor politicians. I only follow up on national elections,” said Jason, a security guard in the Bronx who declined to give his last name.

Apathy among New York City voters is nothing new: in 2014, just 25 percent of the city’s registered voters cast their ballots in the general election, according to an analysis by the New York City Campaign Finance Board.

About 60 percent of the city’s active registered voters turned up to vote in 2016, the agency found, a number likely buoyed by that year’s presidential race.

Some New Yorkers said they don’t plan to vote this year because they’re disillusioned with the political process, or because they feel let down by their current legislators.

“I’m not voting and I don’t want to know the candidates,” said Stephen Butler, who spoke to City Limits as he walked near the 225th Street subway station in the Bronx. “The only thing they want is to have their spot in office and after that they don’t do nothing.”

The results of the 2016 presidential election left him especially jaded, he added.

“I stopped voting since the day Trump won the election,” Butler said.

Others expressed similar feelings. Don, a Bronx resident who refused to share his last name, said he voted for Assemblyman Luis Sepulveda in the last state election but feels hesitant to support the candidate again in his current special election campaign for the state senate.

“How can you choose someone who left their place vacant in the first place?” he asked.

Some voters said that while they don’t necessarily follow local politics, they’ll vote anyway because they think it’s important.

“Someone has to, it’s our job,” said Ana Fernandez of the Bronx, who thinks there should be more outreach so people know who the leaders in their community are. “I don’t think people are as aware as they should be.”

Not everyone is impartial about their elected officials. Jose Santana, who lives the Pelham Parkway neighborhood of the Bronx, knows his current state senator — Jeff Klein of the 34th Senate District — and supports him.

“Jeff Klein always comes to the block parties to eat pizza and interacts with the neighborhood,” Santana said. “He has helped minorities a lot.”

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