Heard Around Town

Low turnout expected for today's presidential primary

The nominees may be all but decided already, but New Yorkers still have the chance to cast their ballots, even if they're blank.

Voters cast their ballots at a polling place in the Brooklyn Museum on Nov. 1, 2022.

Voters cast their ballots at a polling place in the Brooklyn Museum on Nov. 1, 2022. Lokman Vural Elibol/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images

Tuesday is presidential primary day in New York. Even though the two major party candidates have all but been officially determined already, voters in the state can still head to the polls until 9 p.m. to cast their votes.

On the Democratic side, President Joe Biden is the de facto nominee. Voters will also see Dean Philips, who has suspended his campaign, and Marianne Williamson, who recently unsuspended her own bid, on the ballot as well. On the Republican side, Donald Trump is running unopposed after Nikki Haley dropped out. 

Voters wrapped up eight days of early voting on Saturday – one day less than usual thanks to Easter on Sunday. About 101,000 people had already cast their ballots across the state before today, according to the state Board of Elections. More than half of those votes came from New York City. The primary is expected to have an incredibly low turnout, both because New York isn’t expected to be in play in November and because of the predetermined outcome.

However, a coalition of progressives and progressives and pro-Palestine activists have made a last minute push for Democrats to vote in the primary – but to leave their ballots blank in protest of Biden’s continued military support for Israel’s invasion of Gaza, which has led to a worsening humanitarian crisis. It’s similar in spirit to the “Uncommitted” campaigns in states like Michigan and Minnesota. But unlike those states, New York does not have an “uncommitted” or write-in option on its ballot, so organizers are asking voters to submit blank ballots instead.

A number of groups, including the Working Families Party and the New York City chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America, have signed onto the campaign. Several lawmakers have endorsed it as well, including state Sen. Jabari Brisport, Assembly Members Zohran Mamdani and Marcela Mitaynes, and City Council Members Tiffany Cabán and Shahana Hanif.  

Although the state Board of Elections does count blank ballots, it historically doesn’t report those on election night for presidential primaries. Last month, the state BOE told City & State that it does not plan to include the total number of blank ballots cast in its unofficial election night results, though it will release that information weeks later as part of its certified election results. In response, organizers with the Leave it Blank Campaign have threatened to sue the state Board of Elections if it doesn't include blank votes in unofficial election night results.

On Monday night, the board told City & State that it has not received notice of any legal action on the matter. A state BOE spokesperson confirmed that “the unofficial election results will include the votes cast for each person, as required by Election Law” and “the certification, which acts as the official election result, will include all blank and void votes cast.”

On Monday, an election attorney for Leave it Blank wrote to the state and New York City Boards of Elections to notify them of improper poll worker conduct discouraging voters from submitting blank ballots and relaying incorrect information in at least three instances. “We are requesting all poll workers be trained and properly instructed on a voter’s right to cast a blank ballot in this year’s Presidential Primary,” the letter reads.