Tuesday marked the first of this year’s primary elections in New York. Some voters told City Limits they were motivated to show up by the recent, controversial U.S Supreme Court decisions that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion as well as New York’s concealed-carry gun law.
Tuesday marked the first of this year’s primary elections in New York, with party races for governor, lieutenant governor, State Assembly and some judicial posts on the ballot. A second primary will take place Aug. 23 for State Senate and Congressional contests—the result of a chaotic redistricting year in which some district maps were tossed out and redrawn late in the season, splitting the state’s midterm primaries in two.
Voter turnout so far appears to be taking a hit: During early voting from June 18-26, just 86,890 city voters cast their ballots, according to the NYC Board of Elections, compared to 191,197 early voters during last year’s June mayoral primary. Some 279,622 people in the five boroughs had voted as of 3 p.m. Tuesday, according to NYCBOE, a tally which included early voting. Polls are open until 9.m.
But voters trickled into poll sites across the five boroughs throughout the day Tuesday. Some told City Limits they were motivated to show up by the recent, controversial U.S Supreme Court decisions that overturned the constitutional right to an abortion as well as New York’s concealed-carry gun law.
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“I’m glad I live here, I can say that,” said 40-year-old Brooklyn voter J. Plant—who asked to be identified only her first initial and last name—referring to trigger laws in others states that outlawed abortion in the wake of last week’s court ruling. While she always votes in general elections, she said she only sometimes votes in primaries, but felt compelled to show up Tuesday in light of the recent decisions, adding that she voted for Democratic incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul.
“I think it’s also important to keep women in power,” she said.
Upper East Side resident and grandmother of two Chickie Bucco said she too came out to vote for democrats because she was upset and frustrated with the ruling to overturn Roe v. Wade. “I took my teenage son to a pro-choice march 30 years ago,” she said, expressing sadness and frustration.
“I’m glad I’m on my way out because I can’t take it,” Bucco added, wiping her eyes.
The SCOTUS decision also angered New York University nursing professor Madeline Naegle. “I no longer feel like we have a neutral court,” she said.
Naegle voted for Hochul, too, saying she believes the incumbent has done a good job in the role, particularly related to abortion access. “She’s made a real effort in keeping the doors open in New York State and providing support for other states,” she said.
Beth Dannhauser, a longtime Upper East Side resident, came out to the polls not to vote but to get information on switching her parties. The gun control and abortion decisions finally swayed her to switch from independent to democrat so that she would be able to vote in future primary elections.
“I don’t think women will give up this fight,” she said. “They opened a Pandora’s box.”
For Anthony Stirpe, though, the most pressing issue was the economy and rapidly rising prices. Citing a need for change, he was mostly interested in the governor’s race—he cast a ballot at Yorkville Community School on the Upper East Side for Republican candidate Lee Zeldin. “I want to see everyone be able to afford their gas,” he said.
Another nearby polling site at the Church of the Heavenly Rest on 5th Avenue and East 90th Street was among the busier polling sites on Tuesday. Site coordinator Carmen Mathis noted her surprise at receiving more voters than she had in previous elections, with the first arriving at 6:02 that morning and a continuous stream after that, she said.
Mathis, who hosts an eponymous show on the Manhattan Neighorhood Network and has acted on the Netflix show “Orange is the New Black,” kept a gregarious attitude while navigating staffing shortages and lingering technical difficulties during the Tuesday morning rush. She was already down four workers and an accessibility clerk when three of her workers were poached to help out at the poll at the Guggenheim Museum, just about 300 feet away.
One of her two scanners had jammed five times by about 9:30 a.m. and she had one problem with the second scanner, forcing her to collect an emergency ballot. She reported the issues on the phone with a representative from the Board of Elections. “We are not trying to hang with scanner A anymore,” she said, describing how the ballots had been jamming and not falling into the back of the machine as intended. “It’s like a screw is loose or something,” she told the representative.
More local issues were top of mind Tuesday for some voters. At Brooklyn’s I.S. 136 in Sunset Park, Laquinn Lee, 30, said affordable housing was the key priority when he cast his gubernatorial ballot for Jumaane Williams, the current New York City public advocate and former city councilmember who’s campaigned as a more progressive alternative to incumbent Hochul. Williams’ advocacy, Lee said, seems focused not just on housing but on “truly affordable housing,” for lower income New Yorkers.
“He was an activist for a while,” Lee said of Williams, who got his start in public service as a tenant organizer.
Aaron, a 40-year-old voter from Brooklyn who declined to share his last name, also cited housing as the driving force behind his vote, favoring candidates who are pro-development.
“When I see somebody who doesn’t say ‘yes’ to housing, I say ‘no,’ basically,” he said, adding that he was likely to vote for local business owner Erik Frankel for the 51st Assembly District in Sunset Park, though he wasn’t aware the candidate was running until showing up to the polls.
But he was not keen to support incumbent Assemblymember Marcela Mitaynes, he said, because of her past opposition to the expansion of the Made in New York Campus at Brooklyn’s Bush Terminal and what he described as a “reflexive no” against new development in general from some progressive lawmakers.
“I just can’t stomach their ‘perfect in the way of good’ kind of thing,” he said. “Housing has galvanized me.”
The first indication that it might be a sleepy Election Day on Staten Island came during a two-mile drive along Todt Hill Road. As elections near, the mansion-lined roadway often features a number of campaign signs on front lawns and outside iron gates. But on Tuesday, there were just two—each advertising incumbent Rep. Nicole Malliotakis, who isn’t on the ballot until August.
Inside the Staten Island Republican Party headquarters, decked out with signs for Assembly candidate Paul Ciurcina, committee members prepared to fan out and rally voters. “Primaries are often low turn-out elections and we are seeing that today,” said GOP Chair Anthony Reinhardt.
Less than a mile away at Staten Island Tech High School, this year’s double primaries and recent redistricting seemed to confuse some voters who showed up at the wrong polling place. Several had to fill out affidavit ballots or find their new site, said coordinator Anthony Raiola. “I think the redistricting is causing a lot of issues with voters,” Raiola said. “It’s a lot more paperwork.”
“It’s been a mess,” City Limits overheard a poll worker tell a voter registered at a different site. By 12:45 p.m., 137 people had voted at the school, according to a tally of the machine counts. About 300 people had cast ballots there during the nine-day early voting period, Raiola said.
The roughly 15 people who showed up between 12 and 1 p.m. reflected an array of ideologies, including some nuanced positions. Republican Bill Fallon, a boilermaker in Brooklyn, said he planned to vote for Zeldin and found candidate Andrew Giuliani too aligned with Donald Trump, who he called “a showboat.”
“Where the world is today, it’s getting crazy so hopefully we can put some Republicans in there,” he said. “I’m not a big fan of Trump.”
Another Republican who declined to give their name said they planned to vote for Gov. Hochul in the general election and cried last week after the far-right Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade and the last remaining federal abortion protections.
A registered Democrat named Terry, who declined to give his last name, said he planned to vote for Tom Suozzi for governor after Hochul’s first pick for lieutenant governor, Brian Benjamin, was arrested for corruption earlier this spring. He said he found the left wing of the party “too progressive.”
A mix of national and local issues weighed heavily on a pair of Democrats leaving the polling place around noon. Marilyn Carreta, a retired state worker, and John Pirrone, a retired carpenters union benefit fund manager, said democracy itself was at stake.
“Staten Island is a hell hole of pro-insurrectionists, anti-democrats, bigots and racists,” Carretta said. “They don’t care about democracy…it’s a disgrace.”
Both said they voted for Hochul and her running mate, ex-Rep. Antonio Delgado, a candidate for lieutenant governor, because they thought Hochul had done a good job standing up for reproductive rights and gun control measures. They also said they hoped to counter a GOP that had turned “anti-patriotic.”
“The Republican Party has become autocratic,” Pirrone said. “To me, the country is a mess and I’m going to do my part to elect people who represent my views.”