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Good government advocates render post-election observations

A voting site in Broome County. (Vaughn Golden/WSKG)
A voting site in Broome County. (Vaughn Golden/WSKG)
Common Cause Post Elex WEB

Some good government advocates are saying “I told you so”, after depressed voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary and special elections, largely pointing to spotty voter turnout in some areas of the state compared to others.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York advocated for the state to consolidate its primary elections into one date, after a judge postponed congressional and state Senate primaries to this week, following the state’s redistricting lines being thrown out by the state’s highest court.

Lerner called Tuesday’s elections an anomaly.

"Only 60% of eligible Democratic voters... had a competitive congressional primary and 42% of Republican voters had a competitive congressional primary. Not every voter had an election in August, so obviously turnout was lower,” Lerner said.

She said this was also noticeable in some areas like Onondaga County, which had higher turnout, likely resulting from an especially competitive primary race.

Lerner said there were some other significant takeaways from Tuesday’s election though. Around 148,000 people voted early and in-person in New York, which she thinks is evidence that early voting is utilized and worth the cost of setting up and staffing those polling locations.

Lerner also pointed out that a congested and competitive primary in New York’s 10th Congressional District generated some interest over social media in ranked-choice voting. That allows voters to rank their favored candidates, instead of picking only one.

Bill Chong, board member of Rank the Vote NYC and former commissioner of the Department of Youth and Community Development (DYCD) agreed with Lerner’s assessment and said he thinks the candidates' campaign strategies show they see value in ranked-choice voting as well.

"The body language of some of the candidates in the last week of the campaign, they were having joint press conferences around common issues, common causes, but they couldn't cross-endorse each other because that wasn't an option. But I think the candidates appeared to treat the need to build coalitions as an important part of winning," Chong said.

Vaughn Golden has been reporting across New York since 2016. Working as a freelancer while studying journalism and economics at Ithaca College, Vaughn has reported for a number of outlets including the Albany Times Union, New York Post, and NPR among others. Prior to coming to WSKG full-time, Vaughn was a reporter for the Watertown Daily Times. Vaughn now covers government and politics for WSKG.