Can Declining Voter Turnout In Brooklyn Be Reversed?

Registering to vote. (Photo via NYC Board of Elections Facebook page)

As discussion of the historic 2016 presidential election continues, one statistic especially worries democracy advocates — declining voter turnout across Brooklyn and the state.

Voter turnout in Brooklyn has dropped steadily since 2008, with 53.9 percent of the borough’s active voters casting a ballot in 2016, reports the NY Public Interest Research Group.

This matches the overall trend across New York City and New York State — where turnout dropped from 2008 to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2016. Turnout among active registered voters in the five boroughs was 56.3 percent last week and was 62.5 percent across the state.

It’s important to note the exception in New York City — Staten Island — where active voter participation increased this year, relative to the last presidential election. See NYPIRG’s chart below, which shows active voter turnout by borough, in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

Courtesy NYPIRG

NYPIRG defines “active” voters as persons who have voted in at least one of the previous two federal election cycles, or who have verified their active status with their county’s Board of Elections.

What Happened Last Week?
The drop in voter turnout is surprising, says NYPIRG, because both the state and city saw real increases in the number of active voters over the past year. Indeed, there was a 9 percent increase in active New York City voters.

Did a growing number of voters become so disenchanted with both presidential candidates that they opted out altogether?

This year’s ballot had other reasons, at least in theory, for voters to come out. There were also Senatorial, Congressional and State Legislative candidates to choose between. But again, fewer voters may have felt their choices were meaningful.

Was Higher Voter Turnout In 2008 Just A Blip?
What has happened across Brooklyn, and New York, matches the national trend.

About 57 percent of eligible U.S. voters cast ballots last week, down from 58.6 percent in 2012 and 61.6 percent in 2008, reports FiveThirtyEight. The 2008 presidential elections, in which Barack Obama was elected for the first time, had the highest national voter participation rate in 40 years.

National turnout this year, while lower, “still remained well above levels for most presidential election years from 1972 to 2000,” FiveThirtyEight observes.

What do you think? Can voter turnout be increased?

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  1. Why don’t they look at voter turnout in years before 2008? Seems like an odd cutoff period if you are concerned with a notable drop-off. Given the excitement around 2008’s election my guess is that it was very high even compared to prior years. Certainly one of the biggest elections news-wise since 2000 but I doubt the Bush-Gore turnout was very high it was a bigger event after the ballots were cast.

    If we want people to get more involved in elections we need to stop making Presidential elections the “highlight” election and get people more interested in local politics that actually impact there lives. Presidents will impact things like who the country is at war with (we always seem to be at war with someone) and major trade deals but there is little they will do for any individual community. The truth is that people just don’t really care much about their local politics which is why its very easy for corrupt politicians to hold power, it would be great to get more investigative journalism on local political issues so that people know what votes are happening that local politicians are voting on and how the votes turned out. Things like where do big contracts go and how was the decision made to give it to a company could be interesting as well and a way for people to start looking locally at what is happening versus always thinking about national politics (which rarely impact them). Obviously identifying and analyzing local things like this takes quite a bit of work which most people do not care to do so then they look at the President and say “the President hasn’t done anything to help me or my community so I don’t bother with voting” but they don’t realize that they should be concentrating on local issues and leave the national politics for the media to argue about.

  2. The reason voter turnout is on the decline is very simple. They have done more for themselves than they have done for you. Take the nerve of them to charge you if you are injured on the street and taken away by a NYC ambulance. How can you vote for people like that?

  3. Drain the swamp ;). Keep voting out the incumbents until an elected official actually cares about their voters. Remember today they are career politicians, most have never worked real jobs so threatening to kick them out is a huge problem for them.

  4. Could it be they are taking sanctuary in the swamps?.
    You will need extra space in your junkyard for all of them that are dredged up when they drain the swamp.

  5. New York State needs Early Voting. Also, people should be able to change and/or register their party affiliation much closer to primary voting days. Currently, a voter has to register no later than the October preceding the primary.

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