Midterm election turnout in Monroe County declines again

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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.

Jacob Schermerhorn is a Rochester Beacon contributing writer. The Beacon welcomes comments from readers who adhere to our comment policy including use of their full, real name.

8 thoughts on “Midterm election turnout in Monroe County declines again

  1. The 2021 commission didn’t refute that mail in ballots, ballot harvesting and drop boxes are susceptible to voter fraud. There is much evidence of voters having multiple voter registration numbers. An individual on Staten Island had 21 voter registration numbers in the 2020 election according to New York Citizen Audit. Also, the NYC voter registration numbers compiled by NYS exceeded the county records in NYC by 781,633 in the 2020 election. There many other strange happenings in NYS in 2020 according to New York Citizen Audit. In 2020, Pennsylvania had 350 affidavits and witnesses testifying to voter fraud and irregularities in a state legislative hearing. In 2022, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ruled that drop boxes were illegal. This only scratches the surface of voter fraud and irregularities.

  2. The Carter-Baker Commission on voting, referenced above, revisited this question of voting by mail and issued a report in 2021. They found that it increased voter turnout. It required the same voter registration and confirmation of voter registration/validation to make sure it was a legitmate voter. The fact voting by mail requires a paper ballot, something election deniers want, there was actually less chance of voter fraud than voting in person. Actual cases of voter fraud bear that out. In no state does one party validate and count ballots and observation of the entire process is allowed to both parties, candidates, or their designees. Alleged problems with drop boxes or ballot harvesting are all part of the Big Lie, and have been found so by 60 court cases. This whole conversation may mean little since the 15th Amendment, the right to vote for the former slaves. was gutted by the Supreme Court in the 1870’s, with the determination elections are State Rights and States decide the method of voting. Some of this was overcome by the Voting Rights Act of 1965. However, the current Supreme Court has reversed precedent on gerrymandering and gutting the heart of the Voting Rights Act, again deferring to States Rights.
    The figures from a few weeks ago show the rich and corporations, via Citizens United Super Pacs, contributed $890 million to media buys for GOP candidates. This is in addition to direct contributions to candidates elections funds.
    Lastly, my post had nothing to do with these issues, but seeking input on increasing voter turnout participation, since it was still low and we have early voting dates and have had mail voting for three years. I am open to the idea that so much money spent to win elections, especially by the one percent, could discourage the average person from voting.

  3. 15-20 years ago Jimmy Carter was part of a voter integrity commission. To paraphrase, he warned us that mail in ballots would be susceptible to fraud. The golden rule of “chain of custody” would be in jeopardy. This especially applies to drop boxes and ballot harvesting. We are becoming a banana republic when the sanctity of our vote is jeopardized.

  4. It goes to show you, elections can be bought. In the State of Georgia there is a run-off election. The Democratic Party is injecting over $6,000,000.00 to make sure that their opponent is “properly” and financially being disposed of. Money talks folks and those we are wanting total control will spend whatever it takes. The issues……well they take a back seat to the dollar, which will purchase another position. Deep pockets and shallow minds appear to be victor in the “purchase plan”. Never thought our country was for sale. Kinda sad, actually. Semper Fi.

  5. Generally, there is more than one reason why some citizens vote and others don’t. In off-year elections, people may not feel they know enough about candidates, like judges, to decide. This year there was so much negative advertising that citizens grew tired of the “noise” on TV and the web. People who are traditional Republicans most likely couldn’t stomach voting for a Trump-backed Republican and didn’t feel comfortable crossing party lines. It’s possible this election was a referendum on DJT and his candidates. I know I’m sick and tired of hearing about him and his toadies. Many citizens tuned out the political season and all that comes with it. The threat posed by Trumpism and its issues surrounding the right of a woman to determine her fate didn’t loom large in Monroe County because women’s right to choose is enshrined in NY Law.
    Most of all, it’s likely that citizens of color didn’t see any candidates they believed would address the issues that most impacted them. “Defending Democracy” is vitally important, but it also might be too abstract for voters to see how candidates will help them in the here and now. Americans, mostly, are middle-of-the-road voters who desire to maintain the status quo. City voters are happy with our State representatives and didn’t see any real challenge to their re-election, so why vote?
    Same with City Court Judges. Voters were happy with Joe Morelle, at least enough, so they didn’t want to vote for a political novice. Monroe County voters probably were influenced by media reports that downstate voters would carry Kathy Hochul to a full term as Governor, so what difference would their vote make? Political campaign managers and media consultants must change how they appeal to voters to get them to the polls. Stop demonizing the opponent and focus on what it means to be a participatory citizen of a democracy and how their candidate embraces their goals and vision for the future. If nothing else, running a positive and uplifting campaign will undoubtedly make their candidate stand out from the crowd.

  6. I would like to hear ideas on increasing voter participation . Does Rank Choice voting help?
    I do not know, but it seems to have high approval among voters where it is used. Also, one is no longer limited to voting on one day, a work day, and the weather could be bad. We have had early voting, and now mail voting for three years since Covid, so opportunity does not seem to be the problem. Do we have too many election cycles where it seems they never end? Should all offices be four year terms with Local/State elections on four year cycle and Federal elections two years later on a four year cycle? I would like to see opinions and any reliable data on this subject. Since becoming eligible to vote, I cannot imagine not voting. Our Veterans and people in movements like Civil Rights have sacrificed much blood for the vote.
    When I was young President Kennedy and his Brother Robert Kennedy often paraphrased Dante, something like the hottest places in hell were reserved for those that remained nuetral during times of moral crisis. Is this applicable to low voter turnout? Does the large amount of money needed to fund any candidate turn off voters? I know there are some states that have had mail voting for many years that claim much higher voter turnout. I do not know if that is still true, or could be applied to other states. I personally think that increasing voter turnout is worth while to study.

    • Funding for analyzing voter participation could come from a coalition of politically neutral not-for-profits. Locally, the Center for Governmental Research may be the appropriate entity to conduct such a study.
      My intuition tells me that the reasons citizens don’t vote are many and varied. I suspect different age groups have unique biases for not participating in our democracy. One root cause is that civics is no longer emphasized in school curricula. Our population hasn’t internalized that ours is a unique system driven by citizen participation and ownership.
      It seems as if we are on some political cruise control where the existing system has so much inertia that people don’t want to tap the brakes or turn the steering wheel, fearing unintended consequences. Parental behavior and attitude undoubtedly influence how inclined young people are to vote.
      Then there is the perennial challenge that political parties spewing virtually nonstop vitriol about how horrific the opposition is. Political Scientists parse citizens to the finest cross-section of motivation seeking to gain just one more segment of our population to vote for them.
      Tragically, candidates often are not of the highest quality, with a passion for serving, the intellect to comprehend an ever-complex world, and the ability to communicate their vision to all citizens, flexing their messaging when needed to meet citizens where they are and inform them about what they want to accomplish.
      Party leaders want name recognition and, ultimately, the ability to raise money; in some cases, it’s about whose turn it is to vie for a position.
      My Mother used to have a saying, especially for national elections, “Sure, I have a choice; it’s between cancer and a fatal heart attack.” At times it comes down to the lesser of two evils.
      Wouldn’t it be refreshing to have a campaign where candidates candidly lay out all their past transgressions and get them out of the way upfront because who among us doesn’t have some indiscretion in our past? Campaign not on how awful the opposition is, but ask voters to support your clearly articulated vision and your skill and ability to achieve it. Citizens and representatives of our great democratic republic need to find more things that we all have in common and fewer things that divide us.

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