A canvass report by the Monroe County Board of Elections released Friday showed that, although early voting numbers were strong, there was another turnout decline among registered voters.
Early voting accounted for 55,000 or roughly 20 percent of the votes cast, double the number recorded last year. The 2020 presidential election had over 105,000 early votes cast.
Midterm election participation has declined in recent cycles, however, bottoming out at under 50 percent turnout in 2014. The 2018 midterms rebounded with 280,000 votes or 62 percent participation in the gubernatorial election. This year, unofficial results indicate there were some 271,000 votes cast in the gubernatorial race or 56 percent participation.
Part of the downward trend might be attributed to the overall growth of registered voters in the county. Since the 1960s, the number of registered voters has increased by 100,000, but the number of voters going to the polls has remained relatively stable across election cycles.
For example, the 2020 presidential election set a record high with over 380,000 people voting in Monroe County. In the previous 12 presidential elections, the number never fell below 300,000. By contrast, midterm and off-year elections draw 100,000 and 200,000 voters, respectively, below that number.
Across Monroe County, the lowest turnout was centered among election districts in the city of Rochester, where the average was below 40 percent. The central and northeast parts of the city had especially low turnout numbers, falling below 30 percent or even 20 percent.
On the outskirts of Monroe County, the towns of Riga and Rush had 68 percent of all registered voters show up for the 2022 election, the highest in the county. Individual election districts in Perinton, Webster, Brighton and Irondequoit saw high participation as well, with over 70 percent turnout.
Statewide, Monroe County’s 56 percent turnout put it in the middle of the pack. Turnout was slightly higher than in Buffalo and Syracuse, with Erie and Onondaga counties seeing 53 percent and 54 percent, respectively.
New York City’s turnout was considerably lower with none of its boroughs climbing over the 50 percent mark. Bronx County was the worst performer of all, with only 26 percent of voters going to the polls.
Geographic areas of party strength were confirmed by the 2022 results. In the 25th Congressional District race, for example, the margin of victory was strongest for the Democratic candidate, Joe Morelle, in the city of Rochester and southeastern suburbs while unsuccessful Republican challenger La’Ron Singletary saw his greatest support in northwestern towns.
While the towns of Webster and Mendon ultimately had more votes for Singletary and Penfield for Morelle, those margins were much closer than in other areas. The northeast suburbs, in particular, represent a battleground between Democrats and Republicans, as illustrated by the close mayoral race in Fairport.
Morelle’s financial edge
In the 25th Congressional District, Singletary made it a close race despite Morelle’s big financial advantage. The latest disclosure report shows the Republican candidate raised $570,000 while spending $525,000 in his bid for the seat. Morelle $1,900,000 raised with expenditures of $1,700,000 in this cycle.
Much of Morelle’s war chest came from political action and campaign committees. However, even counting only individual contributions, Morelle had the advantage.
With those funds, both candidates used social media advertising through Meta-related applications like Facebook and Instagram. While both remained relatively steady throughout the leadup to the election, there was a definite spike in advertising buys the weeks before Election Day.
According to the NYU Ad Observatory, which provides data on digital political advertising, Singletary focused most on crime and law enforcement, while Morelle’s ads were centered on issues related to reproductive rights. This is further documented with data from Meta’s own searchable service, which indicates that 12 out of 25 of the Morelle ads created in August targeted female users from ages 18 to 44.