By Tom Momberg
Summaries of voting results for the off-year election Nov. 3 have not yet been released by the city Board of Elections, but it is clear that even though voter turnout was low for legislators, Queens residents were engaged in the judicial elections.
At least 40,000 ballots were cast for Queens municipal, civil and Supreme Court justices, but only 15,000 ballots combined were cast for vacant City Council and state Assembly seats.
The unofficial vote count in eastern Queens City Council District 23, for which an off-year election was scheduled to fill a vacancy left by Mark Weprin when he resigned in May, was about 11,000—the lowest voter turnout for a general election for that seat in recent history.
Over 22,500 valid ballots were cast for that seat in 2013, and about 24,700 were cast in 2009. Both elections had an overwhelming Democratic voter turnout, and were concurrent with city mayoral elections. Weprin, a Democrat, got an overwhelming majority of the votes in both those elections.
But the off-year 2015 election brought out a good number of GOP voters, leading to a closer race than it had been historically. Democrat Barry Grodenchik took the seat with about 5,900 votes— an unofficial count. And Republican Joe Concannon received nearly 4,100 votes.
The unofficial vote count for southeast Queens state Assembly District 29, the election to replace William Scarborough who resigned after being indicted on federal corruption charges, was about 4,000—also a record low.
The margin in that race was considerably wider. Democrat Alicia Hyndman took the seat with more than 3,400 votes, and Republican Scherie Murray received about 250. When Scarborough, a Democrat, ran unopposed in 2014, concurrent with gubernatorial elections, he received more than 17,200 votes.
Queens College Political Science Professor Michael Krasner, said the low turnout in an off-year election for those legislative positions is not unusual.
He said the number of ballots cast for any of the candidates was indicative of how many people each candidate was able to bring out to vote from their own parties.
“For American families party identification, most of the time, is inherited from generation to generation,” Krasner said. “If your parents or grandparents are Democratic, there is a high chance their kids will also vote Democratic.”
There were more than 987,000 active registered voters in Queens as of 2012, according to the state Board of Elections. About 12.5 percent of those voters are registered GOP or Conservative party members. Roughly 65 percent are registered Democrats.
A breakdown of voter data by district was not immediately available.
Reach reporter Tom Momberg by e-mail at tmomb