Five Borough Ballot: Voters Tuning in But Still Undecided

September 04, 2013 at 3:47 pm

Jarrett Murphy, executive editor of City Limits, and Morgan Pehme, editor-in-chief of City & State, join host Rafael Pi Roman to discuss the upcoming election, turnout and the Five Borough Ballot reporting project.

The Five Borough Ballot reporting project, a partnership between City & State, City Limits and MetroFocus, sent reporters to unique locations in each of the city’s five boroughs to gauge the opinion of residents about the upcoming mayoral election. Starting in February and  throughout the following six months, potential voters often said that not only did they not know who they would vote for, but that they were also unaware of who was running or even that there was a mayoral campaign underway.

In the last few weeks, as the campaigns increased spending on advertising, stepped up their media appearances and took part in televised debates, voters have become more aware of the race, although many are still undecided.

“Last time I was in Brownsville, Brooklyn it was changing. People were aware of the race, people knew that there was something for them to be paying attention to. Most people told us that they typically don’t make up their mind of who to vote for until the very last week before the primary. That was something I heard a lot,” said Murphy, whose publication City Limits reported from the Van Dyke houses in Brownsville, Brooklyn and from the Camaguey Restaurant in the Bronx.

Pehme said that while voters in the locations that his publication covered, on Manhattan’s upper west side, on Staten Island and in Bayside, Queens, were also becoming more aware of the race, a majority felt so disconnected from the political process that they won’t show up at the polls at all.

“The candidates are registering now that they’ve gotten a good chance to be in the public eye, but there’s not a great deal of enthusiasm really anywhere, he said.”

Pehme identified stop and frisk, public safety, the economy and income inequality as major issues of concern for voters, while Murphy said the people he spoke to were more vague.

Murphy told Pi Roman many voters said they feel disengaged from the political process.

“It’s about a feeling that government over the past 10 or 12 years in the city has been very removed from their lives, that the mayor doesn’t understand what their lives are like and just wanting someone who…understands what life is like for them,” Murphy said.

Asked by Pi Roman about voter turnout in the primaries, Murphy said he expects it to be better than the last mayoral primary election which he described as pathetic.  In 2009, when Mayor Bloomberg sought a third term, there was only a democratic primary and turnout was less than 11 percent.

Pehme disagreed, saying that he’s heard estimates of lower turnout than the last election because no one candidate has captured the attention of voters.

“That just goes to show that…your viewers  should know that this is more important than ever because every vote is going to count, particularly in the Democratic primary where the three frontrunners are neck and neck depending on how you look at the polls and we could see a very small margin separating who are the candidates who get into the runoff,” he said.