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Election Turnout: Divided Democrats Can’t Understand a Winning Strategy

By Craig Papajohn-Shaw

Volume 2 Issue 2

November 19, 2021

Election Turnout: Divided Democrats Can’t Understand a Winning Strategy

Image provided by The Democratic Poltical Initiative

Democrats witnessed their worst nightmare as they viewed the results for the 2021 election. Nationally, Virginia's once trending Democratic stronghold obtained a Republican Governor, Glenn Youngskin, Republican Lieutenant Governor Winsone Sears, and Republican Attorney General Jason Miyares, who defeated their respective Democrat opponent. In New Jersey, a state President Joe Biden (D) won by 16 percentage points, narrowly re-elected Democratic Governor Phil Murphy by three percentage points. Locally in Nassau County, Anne Donnoley (R) defeated New York State Senator Todd Kaminsky (D); one of the most significant upsets of the night was Bruce Blakeman (R) defeating incumbent Laura Curran (D) for County Executive. Curran, the favorite to win and the first female executive in the county, did not concede the election as 19,000 absentee ballots were still to be counted. She conceded on Tuesday, November 16th. The Republican “red wave” locally and across the nation during this off-year election exposes the unclear agenda of the Democratic party and how it affects voter turnout.

Since the Democrats have taken complete control of the executive and legislative branches, the party’s factions have been highlighted in their disagreements. From the progressive side of Representatives Alexandria Ocasio-Cortes (D-NY) and Cori Bush (D-LA) to the moderate Democrat Senators of Joe Manchin (D-WV) and Kyrsten Sinema (D-AZ), policies including the Build Back Better and Infrastructure plans have been difficult to pass with a slim majority in each house of Congress. Exit polling showed President Biden’s controversial decisions regarding Afghanistan, his failure to fulfill campaign promises, unclear agenda, and a low approval rating heavily contributed to the outcome of the 2021 elections.  While Decision 2021 was an off-year election, the results show the plausible implications of Decision 2022, the midterm elections, and how Democrats could lose control of both the House of Representatives and the Senate. Not only that, focusing on the low voter turnout locally, let’s analyze turnout in 2017, 2020, and 2021.

Just as in 2021, 2017 was an off-year election, meaning neither the Presidential nor midterm elections occurred. The former Nassau County Legislature from the 5th district, Laura Curran, ran against Republican opponent Jack Martins. Curran defeated Martin by three percentage points with 147,102 votes, compared to the 139,204 votes Martins received. Nassau residents in this race cast 288,281 votes. In a similar off-year election in 2021, Curran was up for re-election and received 123,317, while her Republican counterpart received 135,128 votes (excluding the approximate 19,000 absentee ballots). Including the approximate 19,000 absentee ballots, about 277,845 Nassau residents would have cast their vote in the recent election, over 10,000 fewer votes cast than the previous county executive election. States including Texas, Florida, and Georgia have implemented new voter restriction laws, unlike in New York, where legislators attempt to pass laws that ease voter registration. Logically, it doesn’t make sense that voter turnout was lower on Long Island in 2021 than in 2017 especially considering the divisive political nature and strong opinions about the country's future. Aside from that, 723,220 Nassau residents voted in the 2020 Presidential Election, displaying their neglecting to participate in local elections. As much as the liberal and conservative media like to focus on party politics, they fail to hold voters accountable who are registered to go to the polls but choose not to, especially in states where it’s easy to vote.

If Democrats look to maintain or even add onto their majority in both houses of Congress, they need to focus on voter turnout, as they did in 2020. Use instances from activists such as Stacey Abrams (D-GA) when she assisted in registering hundreds of thousands of voters in the state of Georgia, which debatably delivered Joe Biden the win in that state. The strategy of registering new voters and making sure they voted as well as swaying moderate voters proved successful in 2020. However, the confusion in the party narrative contributed to the decreased voter turnout. This divisive environment of the Democratic Party and a diminished sense of urgency compared to the presidential election, where moderate voters voted for Biden, resulted in those who voted blue in 2020 voting Republican as they had in years past or not turning out to vote at all.

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