Albany Agenda

Here’s where the Leave It Blank campaign did best in New York City

In some Assembly districts in Brooklyn and Queens, a third of voters cast blank ballots in the Democratic presidential primary.

Simrand Thind holds a Leave it Blank flyer outside of Masjid Al-Abidin in Queens on March 29, 2024.

Simrand Thind holds a Leave it Blank flyer outside of Masjid Al-Abidin in Queens on March 29, 2024. Adam Gray/Getty Images

As pro-Palestine, anti-war protests continue to roil college campuses in New York, certified election results from the New York City Board of Elections show that nearly 15% of Democratic voters may have cast protest votes in opposition to the war in Gaza in the April presidential primary.

According to the newly certified results, 14.8% of ballots cast in the Democratic presidential primary on April 2 were “unrecorded,” a designation that includes both blank ballots and ballots that were voided due to a mistake like mismarking the ballot. Out of a total of 200,043 ballots cast in the five boroughs, 29,684 were “unrecorded,” the vast majority of which were likely blank. The results came after a campaign from pro-Palestine activists in the weeks leading up to the election that urged Democratic voters to cast blank ballots in the presidential primary to protest President Joe Biden’s continued support for Israel’s invasion of Gaza.

Unlike other states that have seen successful protest vote campaigns in their presidential primaries, New York has no “uncommitted” option, nor does it permit write-in candidates in the presidential primary. That’s why organizers of the Leave it Blank campaign asked voters to express their discontent by casting blank ballots. While blank ballots are recorded, they were not reported on election night. 

The 7th Congressional District in Brooklyn and Queens, represented by Rep. Nydia Velázquez, had the highest rate of blank ballots among congressional districts, with over 30% of voters casting a vote for none of the Democratic presidential candidates. Velázquez has been an early and consistent proponent of a permanent ceasefire. There were also high rates of blank ballots in districts represented by democratic socialists like Assembly Member Marcela Mitaynes – whose District 51 overlaps with Velázquez’s – where over 37% of ballots were “unrecorded.” The nearby 52nd Assembly District, represented by fellow socialist Assembly Member Emily Gallagher, had the second highest rate of blank ballots among Assembly districts in the city, at 39%. 

The rate in Congressional District 13, represented by DSA-backed Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, was lower than some other parts of the city with about 13% of ballots “unrecorded.” However, other parts of western Queens, where progressives and socialists have performed well, had high rates of blank ballots. In Assembly District 36, represented by Assembly Member Zohran Mamdani, about 28% of voters cast blank ballots. In the neighboring District 37 – currently repped by the scandal-plagued Assembly Member Juan Ardila but where the DSA is running a strong campaign to replace him – about 30% of ballots were listed as “unrecorded.”

The certified results from the city Board of Elections is the first official indication of the results of the Leave if Blank Blank Campaign following April 2. City & State previously reported, based on our own calculations, that about 12% of ballots cast in the Democratic presidential were left blank statewide. Organizers and supporters of the campaign came to the same conclusion and touted the results soon after the election while awaiting certified results.