Low voter turnout on Election Day in Queens for congressional, state Senate primaries

Stephanie Chauncey, a Queensbridge resident and coordinator at the P.S. 78 voting site during the June primaries. (Photo by Julia Moro)

Polls opened at 6 a.m. on Election Day, Aug. 23, allowing Queens voters to cast their ballot for U.S. House of Representatives and state Senate primary races around the borough until 9 p.m.

This year, the New York primaries were split into two parts: one in June and one in August.

QNS will keep you updated throughout the day and will post unofficial election results after the polls close. Results will not be official until they are certified by the city’s Board of Elections.

Low voter turnout early in Queens

According to one Richmond Hill voter, as of 9:30 a.m., approximately 20 voters had cast their ballot at P.S. 254, where there was only one race to vote in, the 15th Senate District.

Additionally, the auditorium in Richmond Hill High School was empty early Tuesday morning as poll site workers sat and chatted amongst themselves. The polling site at Richmond Hill High School, located at 89-30 114th St., has not seen any voters since opening at 6 a.m., according to the polling site coordinator, who said he’s not sure if many people will show up to the polls today.

Meanwhile, the gymnasium at the Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens, located at 110-04 Atlantic Ave., saw at least two voters.

The polling coordinator there said he’s “pretty sure that a good amount of voters mailed in their absentee ballots” for the primary election.

The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens saw at least two voters since opening at 6 a.m. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

When asked how the city and candidates can better promote voter participation in local elections, the coordinator said there needs to be a better method to reach people, especially seniors, who don’t use social media or may not watch the news.

“That’s great they’re using social media as a tool to get the vote out, but they need to go old school sending out mailers to people,” the coordinator said. “New York City doesn’t promote elections very well for early elections. I used to see signs everywhere, for example on the subway, and now I don’t.”

According to poll site worker Ben Shimon, most people don’t care much about the primaries.

“If the candidates canvassed the neighborhoods more effectively, the turnover would be high,” Shimon said. “Only the supporters are coming in to vote and others don’t show up.”

Poll site worker Ben Shimon at The Boys and Girls Club of Metro Queens. (Photo by Carlotta Mohamed)

Meanwhile, in northeast Queens, voter turnout also low.

Many point to redistricting in the area, as well as the unusual timing of the primary, as factors in low turnout today.

“This election could have a huge impact on how the general election goes. As an educator, I believe it’s important to elect people who support education,”  said Diane Yodic, who voted at P.S. 209.

Photo by Ethan Marshall

The Bayside area usually gets a higher turnout during elections, but that wasn’t the case as of 10:30 a.m., according to a polling coordinator at P.S. 169.

The coordinator told QNS that there had only been about 100 voters at that time when usually there are usually between 2,000 to 4,000 for most elections.

“The primaries being moved back killed voter turnout, along with redistricting. A lot of people also tend to go on vacation this time of year,” the coordinator said. “The general election will be very important, as seat changes could shift power in the House of Representatives.”

Assemblyman Ed Braunstein also cited the timing of the primary as a reason for the low voter turnout.

“The time of the year plays a big role [in the voter turnout]. A lot of people are away right now,” Braunstein told QNS. “Every vote has more significance in a lower turnout. I anticipate voters are motivated this year to turn out for the general election.”

Voter turnout was also poor in western Queens as of noon. Turnout was expected to be a bit higher in the area, which includes a hotly contested race for the newly drawn State Senate District 59.

Jacob Riis Settlement sees low voter turnout Tuesday, Aug. 23. (Photo by Adrian Childress)

The District 59 Democratic primary race includes four candidates, with one progressive dropping out just last week. Candidate Kristen Gonzalez has been backed by the Democratic Socialists of America and other high-profile, anti-establishment parties.

The District 59th state Senate race is largely thought to be a fight between a democratic socialist and the establishment-backed candidate Elizabeth Crowley, endorsed by the Queens County Democratic Party, also known as the “Queens Machine” by its detractors.

One Astoria voter, Ryan Douglass, said he favors Gonzalez.

“Gonzales has been physically present in the district over the last two years across many different community organizations,” Douglass said, “while Crowley just seems to be a name. I haven’t seen her present in meetings or events organized by the community, and Gonzales has been”

According to the polling site coordinator at P.S. 136, there had only been three voters so far at 10 a.m., none of which were voting on the 59th Senatorial District ballot.

“That’s the problem with participatory democracy; people have to participate,” the coordinator told QNS.

The newly drawn district runs from Queens down into Brooklyn and a portion of Manhattan, making it the only district in the state Senate to span three boroughs.

The polling site coordinator attributed the poor voter turnout to the fact that this is an off-year election.

“Unfortunately, people tend not to turn out in the same numbers,” the coordinator said. “For the 2020 presidential election, I had people standing and staring at their ballot to make sure they didn’t make a mistake. They were so invested in who they were voting for, or who they were voting against.”

Early voting turnout was poor in Queens, which had only 4,900 early ballots, fewer than Manhattan, Brooklyn and Staten Island.

“One of the workers here was in the Museum of Moving Image in Astoria for nine days and had 600 voters. I was in Jackson Heights and had 20,” said the P.S. 136 coordinator.

There was a stream of voters throughout the morning, attempting to vote for the 56th Senatorial District, only to be told that they couldn’t as there was no contest in this district, according to the coordinator.

Each of these voters was given a ‘future voter’ sticker and encouraged to come back in November to vote in the general election.

As of noon, Queens had approximately 10,000 votes cast, including early voting numbers, according to the city’s Board of Elections.

Who’s on the ballot

Democratic Party

3rd Congressional District: Jon Kaiman, Robert P. Zimmerman, Joshua Alexander Lafazan, Reema Rasool, Melanie D’Arrigo

5th Congressional District: Rep. Gregory Meeks is running unopposed in the primary and will head straight to the general election to face off against Republican Paul King.

6th Congressional District: Rep. Grace Meng is unopposed in the Democratic Primary and will be facing off against Thomas Zmich in the general election.

7th Congressional District: Nydia M. Velazquez, Paperboy Love Prince

14th Congressional District: Rep. Alexandria Ocasio Cortez will not have a primary challenger and will face a challenger — to be decided after the Republican primary — in the general election.

11th Senatorial District: Toby Ann Stavisky will not have a primary challenger and will run against Republican Stefano Forte in the general election.

15th Senatorial District: Joseph P. Addabbo Jr., Albert Baldeo, Japneet Singh

16th Senatorial District: John Liu will not have a primary challenger and will face Ruben Cruz II in the general election.

59th Senatorial District: Francoise Olivas, Kristen S. Gonzalez, Elizabeth S. Crowley, Nomiki Konst, Michael D. Corbett

Republican Party

14th Congressional District: Tina Forte, Desi Joseph Cuellar

There are no Republican primaries in the remaining districts as only one candidate is in each race.

Primary winners will face off in the general election on Tuesday, Nov. 8, with polls open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. The early voting period for the general election beings Oct. 29 and runs through Nov. 6.

Additional reporting by Ethan Marshall, Adrian Childress, Carlotta Mohamed and Rebecca Roche.

Editor’s note: This story was updated at 2:42 p.m. on Aug. 23.