After two and a half million New Yorkers marched to the polls last November, only for four-fifths of them to watch with horror as results trickled in from the rest of the country, city voters could be forgiven for never wanting to be inside a polling station again. And this year voters are likely approaching Election Day with the excitement of a trip to the drugstore, especially with the highest-profile race, for mayor, looking like a shoo-in for Bill de Blasio.
But there are still reasons to vote and watch the final tallies tomorrow, with seats up for grabs in certain key districts and in the surrounding region, as well as a ballot measure that could change the definition of New Yorkers’ basic rights:
The most important race in the region is happening across the Hudson River, where Democrats have an excellent chance of nabbing a high-profile governorship when voters in New Jersey will choose a successor to term-limited Republican and former Trump bestie Chris Christie. One-time Goldman Sachs exec and diplomat Phil Murphy has led Republican lieutenant governor Kim Guadagno wire-to-wire since the primary and is ahead by 16 percentage points according to polling averages. Whoever wins will have to face a $687 million state budget shortfall over the next two years, and $49 billion in rising pension liabilities making up much of the state’s $153.5 billion debt, not to mention skyrocketing property taxes and more summers of hell on the rails.
Meanwhile, two contests in the city’s suburbs could be bellwethers for how the state will vote in future elections. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino wants a second crack at the governor’s mansion in 2018, but first must get past Yonkers state senator George Latimer. Nassau GOP senator Jack Martins is neck and neck with Democrat Laura Curran for the open Long Island county executive seat. How the county manipulates property taxes should be a key issue in that race, but the two have mostly squabbled over gangs.
New Yorkers aren’t just picking the next mayor on Tuesday. Dozens of municipal leaders are on the ballot, and some contests could be decided by only a handful of votes. The most competitive race in the city is in Bay Ridge, where two rising politicos, Democrat Justin Brannan and Republican John Quaglione, have fiercely debated immigration policy, broken windows policing, and discrimination in their debates. Republicans hope for a rare pickup in the borough — there are only three GOP members currently on the entire city council, none from Brooklyn — while Democrats are monitoring turnout to determine whether they would have a shot at reclaiming the neighborhood’s GOP-controlled congressional seat in 2018.
Elsewhere there are several rematches from the September primaries in which second-place Democratic finishers found another party to hitch a ride on. In the northeast Bronx, Assemblymember Mark Gjonaj spent $716,000, or a little more than $200 per vote, to get past community board members Marjorie Velazquez and John Doyle in the primary. Velazquez took the Working Families Party line and Doyle snagged the Liberal Party ballot line, but Gjonaj is emptying out his campaign coffers — his spending is up to $1.2 million, according to the latest city campaign filings.
There’s a rematch in Maspeth between Democratic Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley and civic leader Bob Holden, who is running on multiple party lines after he lost the Democratic primary. A race for an open seat in Borough Park between Kalman Yeger and Yoni Hikind has divided the area’s close-knit Orthodox Jewish community. And in Lower Manhattan, Democratic councilmember Margaret Chin is facing a rematch from Christopher Marte, now on the Independence Party line, after edging him by only 222 votes in September. Chin’s support for a senior housing development at the site of a garden on Elizabeth Street could cost her her seat this time around.
Read your ballot closely for a question concerning a constitutional convention. State law allows voters to decide whether the state’s constitution needs a little freshening up every 20 years, which New Yorkers last approved in 1967. A vote in favor of a convention starts the process enabling candidates to run next year as convention delegates — there would be 204 total, three for each state senate district and 15 at-large — and the convention itself would be held in April 2019 in Albany at a mostly clean hotel with a bar that stays open past midnight. By November of that year, voters would ratify or reject any of their proposed edits.
The referendum has divided like-minded advocacy groups on the left and the right, some of which have poured hundreds of thousands of dollars into the cause. Labor leaders are opposed to a Con Con because they’re worried delegates would do away with their pensions. Good government groups see a convention as their best chance to pass stronger ethics laws, civil rights protections, and election reform. The Voice’s Ross Barkan laid out the pros and cons of a Con Con, which you should read before voting; statewide support for the referendum appears to be faltering, according to a November Siena poll.
You’re a New Yorker, damn it, and you already spend half your day giving your opinion to everyone around you, even if they never asked for it. Think of voting in an off-year election as giving the mayor and your local council member a piece of your mind. That way, when you see them in public you can tell them you voted for them, so they should put a bike rack on your corner and plant two more trees on your block already. (And if you throw in a couple hundred thousand dollars to the mayor’s campaign you can even ask for your water bill overcharges to be taken care of, or for building inspectors to back off your property.) And while you’re at it, you can also make sure you can actually still vote at your polling place — don’t forget how the city Board of Elections admitted to illegally removing 117,000 voters from the rolls in Brooklyn last year. The board has apparently corrected the error, although it wouldn’t surprise anyone if there is another glitch. If they don’t let you vote? You can always order those stickers in bulk.