Early voting in the Bronx starts slow with low turnout amid partisan ‘enthusiasm gap’

people voting
Lightly trafficked polling locations were a common theme in the Bronx during the first days of early voting in NYC.
Photo ET Rodriguez

After the first few days of early voting in NYC, the Bronx saw the lowest percentage of active voters cast in-person ballots compared to the other boroughs.

Though most general election races in New York City are seen as shoo-ins for Democrats, this year’s race for governor is expected to be much closer than Democrats would like. For example, FiveThirtyEight found that as of Tuesday, Gov. Kathy Hochul had just a 6.6-point average lead over her Republican challenger U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin.

Early voting at the polls began on Saturday, Oct. 29 and will continue until Sunday, with Election Day on Tuesday.

The Bronx had the second to the fewest number of people show up for the first four days of early voting out of the five boroughs with 16,089 in-person ballots cast, and the lowest percentage of the borough’s active voters at just 2.2%.

chart listing out the numbers of votes per borough with same information in article

Staten Island saw fewer early voters over the first four days with 15,598 ballots cast, but that figure represents 5% of the borough’s active voter population.

Though thousands more voted early in Queens, with 35,246 ballots cast, the turnout wasn’t much higher of a percentage than the Bronx, at 2.9% of active voters.

Brooklyn saw 49,045 early votes, or 3.3% of active voters, and Manhattan saw 55,799 early votes, or 5.6% of active voters.

Chapin Fay, a political consultant who has worked on various Republican campaigns, including Republican gubernatorial candidate U.S. Rep. Lee Zeldin’s super PAC, believes the low turnout in the Bronx is a good sign for Republicans.

“The single most frightening thing to come out of Halloween weekend for the Democrats was Bronx early voting numbers,” Fay, the founder and CEO of Lighthouse Public Affairs, said in a statement to the Bronx Times. “The energy and momentum is all on the Republican side and low turnout in places like the Bronx is exactly how Lee Zeldin will become Governor.”

New York’s last Republican governor was George Pataki, who began his term in 1995 and was re-elected twice, holding the office until 2007.

Jake Dilemani, a Democratic strategist and partner at Mercury Public Affairs, also pointed to what he called a “large enthusiasm gap” between Democrats and Republicans nationwide.

“This gap is going to be reflected in the Bronx which has an overwhelming Democratic registration edge,” he said.

That being said, over the last couple of years, early voter turnout was heavier in the days closer to Election Day, Dilemani said.

But the low turnout among Bronxites can also be attributed to the absence of competitive general election races local to the borough, he said.

Early voting this election can be seen as uncharted waters, as then Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed off to allow early voting in-person in New York in 2019, making this year the first midterm and gubernatorial election in the state with the option.

Hochul, who served as Cuomo’s lieutenant governor, became the first female governor in New York’s history in August 2021 when she assumed the position after Cuomo resigned. The decision came a week after New York’s attorney general released the results of an investigation that found Cuomo sexually harassed at least 11 women, which lead to widespread calls for him to leave office.

Hochul was out campaigning in the Bronx on Tuesday, at the Gun Hill Road subway station with state Sen. Jamaal Bailey and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, both Bronx Democrats.

The Bronx Times reached out to the Bronx Democratic Party for comment on early voting turnout and did not receive a response.

The August primaries, which consisted of congressional and state Senate races, had a gloomy early voting showing with just 4,558 ballots cast in the Bronx, 4,900 in Queens and 6,423 in Staten Island, while Manhattan saw 36,852 voters cast ballots early and Brooklyn saw 23,692.

Early voting numbers were better in the Bronx for the more typical June primary for statewide and state Assembly, with 10,045 ballots cast compared to 4,839 in Staten Island, 17,157 in Queens, 25,644 in Brooklyn and 29,205 in Manhattan.

The Bronx had 6,801 ballots cast across the first four days of early voting for the 2021 general election, a steep decrease from the 66,393 early ballots cast in the first three days of early voting in the northernmost borough in 2020, the last presidential election.

Poll sites will be open from 10 a.m.-8 p.m. on Wednesday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. on Thursday, 7 a.m.-3 p.m. on Friday and 9 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday and Sunday. On Tuesday, the polls will be open from 6 a.m.-9 p.m. Voting sites can be found on the NYC Board of Elections website.

Reach Aliya Schneider at aschneider@schnepsmedia.com or (718) 260-4597. For more coverage, follow us on Twitter, Facebook and Instagram @bronxtimes