The primary elections on Sept. 13 for State Senate and Assembly marked the first election in which the new legislative districts came into effect. The new maps were drawn up during the 2012 redistricting plan.
The Center for Urban Research at the CUNY Graduate Center updated its interactive maps of the newly-formed districts, which show by district the racial/ethnic disparity present between the total population and the population eligible to vote. The Center accompanied the maps with a report on conclusions drawn from the data.
The maps found that districts in upstate New York have greater shares of eligible voters than districts in the city. While nearly75 percent of residents in upstate New York are eligible to vote, the same applies to only 60 percent of city residents. It pointed out, as an example, two districts that had a particularly low share of eligible voters.
Specifically, in Senate district 13 and district 33 (part of the Bronx), less than half of the population is eligible to vote. In district 13 this is primarily due to non-citizen adults, but in district 33 it is due more to a large population under age 18. But it is possible that a substantial portion of the youth population in this district — where Latinos make up almost 70% of the district — are also not citizens.
This finding is visualized in a set of interactive bar graphs, one of which is shown in a screenshot below. Each group of bars represents a region of New York, with, from left to right, Long Island, New York City and New York State. With green representing the number of eligible voters, pink the amount of people too young to vote and dark blue the number of non-citizen adults ineligible to vote, the graph shows how districts in the city have a greater number of ineligible voters.
When it comes to districts with a large number of ineligible voters, each individual with the ability to vote has a greater say in who gets elected.
Instead of being 1 out of 300,000 people who can vote, they are 1 out of 150,000, for example. This may not be a great concern where the interests of eligible voters are aligned with those who cannot vote, but the characteristics of the two populations may be very different in districts with large populations of non-citizen adults.
The report looks at the example of districts that were changed in the redistricting process to encompass “overall majority or plurality Asian or Hispanic populations.” However, “their eligible voters remain substantially or predominantly White.”
For example, the redistricted State Senate district 16 has been described in the media as an “Asian-majority” district: its population is 53% Asian American and less than a quarter White (and the combined Black/Hispanic share is 20%). It therefore might be considered a likely seat for an Asian American candidate to win.
However, based on Census Bureau estimates, Asians make up only 40% of that district’s eligible voters while the White share of eligible voters increases to just over 36% and the combined Black/Hispanic share is 21%. The racial/ethnic makeup of the eligible voters indicates this would more likely be an “Asian opportunity” district rather than a “safe” Asian district.
The report also added that “the number of registered voters will differ from (and likely be less than) the number of eligible voters, and the number of people who actually vote will be even smaller.”
That “even smaller” number of people who actually vote was pointed out by the Epoch Times‘ Kristen Meriwether, who reported that this year’s primaries saw “turnout percentages in the teens.”
Andy Morrison, the Statewide Outreach director for advocate organization New York Public Interest Research Group, said that more could be done to “break down the barriers to voting,” which will in turn, lead to higher turnout on election days. For example, New Yorkers who have yet to register to vote, must do so by Oct. 12, 25 days in advance, in order to vote on the general elections on Nov. 6.
Morrison believes offering a same day registration, something offered in eight states already, would increase voter turnout. “As you get closer to the election, there is a lot more enthusiasm. People suddenly make up their minds they want to vote, but if they show up to the polls after that 25-day marker, they are not able to vote,” Morrison said.
New York is one of 18 states that does not offer early voting, so those who can’t make it out on Election Day miss out. Alex Camarda, director of Public Policy for Citizen’s Union believes getting in line with the other 32 states could increase voter turnout.