By Alex Berg
On mayoral election day, polling stations in the South Bronx bared little resemblance to one year ago, when feverish crowds turned out to vote in the presidential election.
That was then, when upwards of 2.6 million New Yorkers voted in the presidential election. On November 4th of this year, the New York Times reported only 1.1 million New Yorkers came out to vote, according to the city’s Board of Elections.
I conducted exit polls at about six polling stations, along with other BronxInk.org reporters who were stationed all over the Bronx.
The Mott Haven Community Center, at 3rd Ave. and 143rd St., had the most consistent stream of voters. Still, voters were scarce enough that poll workers were able to escort them, one by one, from the street into the center. That was while other poll workers smoked cigarettes and relaxed outside.
According to one poll worker, two of the three voting machines were broken anyway. Even so, there were no lines, no complaints.
During the chilly hour I spent standing outside the center starting around 7:45 a.m., few more than eight people showed up to cast their votes.
“I believe in the process and I want my vote to count,” said Roxanne R., a 40-something year old nurse who refused to give her last name. Roxanne was one of the few and the proud who voted at the community center, in part because she felt it was her duty as a member of the community.
Her attitude was not common.
Five blocks south of the community center at the Judge Gilbert Ramirez Apartments, there was one voter over the span of 40 minutes. She declined to speak with me.
This scene repeated itself at four other polling stations, where there were either very few voters or none at all. By noon, I spoke with 11 voters in total. Eight voted for former Comptroller Bill Thompson, two voted for Mayor Michael Bloomberg and one refused to identify who she voted for.
BronxInk.org’s Bronx-wide exit polls reported Bronxites voted for Bill Thompson 2-1, most of them motivated against the mayor’s bid to overturn term limits.
“We have to get Bloomberg out of office,” said Natasha Spivey, a 40-year-old administrative assistant who voted at P.S. 154 on 135th St. “He bought his term limit.”
But perhaps the underwhelming voter turnout parallels the candidates’ absence in the Bronx.
As I walked along 3rd Avenue from 149th St. to 135th St. and up various cross streets, I saw only two campaign posters. They were signs for Thompson. One was crushed in the street outside the Mott Haven Houses, a housing project.
Teresa Hargraves, a 60-year-old who voted at P.S. 154, said she though both candidates neglected the Bronx during the campaign.
Hargraves was right. On election night, BronxInk.org reporter Maia Efrem asked the Borough President Ruben Diaz Jr. if Thompson came to the Bronx during the campaign. Diaz said he did. Once.
When I called Thompson’s press contact to verify how frequently he campaigned in the Bronx, I was told at the time there was no one in the office that knew (Mayor Bloomberg’s Bronx office did not return my call or email).
At the end of the day, Mayor Bloomberg beat out Thompson by less than five percent. It’s difficult not to consider how the election might have been different if more people voted. Or if the candidates had treated the Bronx like the rest of New York City.