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VANISHING VOTERS

While absentee ballots are still coming in and it will be weeks before all of the 2010 Election results are certified, a preliminary analysis of the Queens vote showed many borough residents decided to sit this one out.
Queens residents cast 257,141 votes for Governor this year with Democrat Andrew Cuomo receiving 197,481 of those votes, according to preliminary tallies. Republican candidate Carl Paladino received 50,660 votes while other candidates received roughly 9,000 votes in Queens.
Although these numbers at face value seem high, in the 2006 Governor’s race between Democrat Eliot Spitzer and Republican John Faso, 330,641 Queens residents cast a ballot, and in the 2002 race between Republican George Pataki and Democrat Carl McCall, 355,756 Queens residents voted, according to state election statistics.
“Those numbers seem really low,” said Jerry Skurnik, a partner at the political consulting firm Prime New York. “I would think they were similar to 2006,” Skurnik said, referring to the Spitzer/Faso race where Spitzer was expected to trounce Faso.
Queens College Political Science Professor Michael Krasner believes that similar poll numbers favoring Cuomo this year may have impacted turnout.
“The polls seemed to show that the Governor’s race was a foregone conclusion and that’s the race that’s salient to most voters,” Krasner said. “Some of the Democrats may have decided to stay home assured that Cuomo would win.”
While midterm elections generally see much lower voter turnout compared to a presidential election year, the 257,141 Queens votes for Governor paled in comparison to the nearly 640,000 Queens votes cast in the 2008 presidential election.
“A lot of people feel disappointed in Obama and his administration and his approval rating is quite low,” said Krasner.
“When people feel discouraged about the current administration it carries over, and they feel discouraged about politics in general,” he continued.
Meanwhile, on a local level, the most competitive race was in northeast Queens’ State Senate District 11 where Democratic challenger Tony Avella defeated Republican incumbent Frank Padavan by a 26,864 to 22,781 margin – absentee ballots still need to be counted.
For comparison, in the 2008 presidential election year, Padavan received more than twice the amount of votes he received this year, narrowly defeating City Councilmember James Gennaro by a 45,294 to 44,811 margin. In 2006, Padavan received 31,019 votes – more than 8,000 fewer than he received this year – defeating his Democratic opponent Nora Marino by more than 10,000 votes.
Krasner said Padavan, a 38-year incumbent, may have fell victim to the anti-incumbent backlash this year.
“It’s also, I’m totally fed up with politics and those politicians in Albany should be thrown out,” Krasner said.

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