The very special Election Day is finally upon us: Today, New York City residents will choose their Public Advocate, following three months of fierce campaigning, ballot drama, a lawsuit, and awkward attempts to squeeze a dozen-plus candidates onto a single stage.
When it's all over, one lucky candidate will be rewarded with the hazily-defined advocacy role and the knowledge that they are first in the line of succession should anything happen to our current mayor. (Then they'll have to immediately campaign for a non-special election, starting with a June primary.)
A few quick reminders: If you are registered to vote in any party, you can vote. Polling sites (find yours here) are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m., and as long as you're in line by 9 p.m., no one can kick you out. If you encounter any problems while voting, contact the Board of Elections or the State Attorney General's office.
Compared to November's high stakes and broken scanner-induced chaos, today's exercise in democracy seems decidedly less stressful. Still, it is a strange election for a lot of reasons—there are 17 candidates, it is February, etc.—and no less civically important. You'll get an "I VOTED" sticker, which you can emblazon on your head and post to Instagram all the same.
We'll be updating this blog throughout the day. If you see anything special—or just want to share YOUR voting experience—drop us a line at firstname.lastname@example.org.
UPDATE 9:40 p.m. NY1 is projecting that Jumaane Williams will be the next Public Advocate of New York City. With just over 80 percent of scanners counted, the Brooklyn City Councilmember currently has 32.9 percent of the vote. As it stands, citywide turnout is just 6.5 percent—or about 350,000 total votes. Check back for a full story momentarily.
UPDATE 2:15 p.m. It was widely assumed that turnout would be abysmal today, and by all indications, New Yorkers are meeting their low expectations. While it’s tough to say what turnout should look like—we’ve never had a citywide special election, of any type—reports from the polls suggest tumbleweed levels of participation.
One participant noted that there were “more garbage cans here than actual voters” at his Rego Park poll site. Several others said they heard from elections workers that only a handful of votes had been cast, hours after the polls had opened.
Voter turnout was wild in Flatbush this morning. When I went in, there were 2 whole other voters in there!
People can't wait to elect a new Public Advocate, whatever that is!
— Jeremy Wilcox (@jwilcox79) February 26, 2019
— Joseph Arra (@JoeArra) February 26, 2019
A tight race with loads of candidates and brutally low turnout across the city? Sounds like even more of an incentive to get out and vote. Don't let Lester down!!!
— Emily Stern (@brtvintage) February 26, 2019
UPDATE 1:00 p.m.: Public advocate candidates are reacting to today's surprise announcement that Governor Cuomo plans to partially fund the MTA through a tax on legalized marijuana. Former City Council Speak Melissa Mark Viverito—who's running on the 'Fix The MTA' party line—said that the new proposal is proof that she's "successfully delivered on a bold, progressive vision to fix the broken subways.”
City Councilmember Rafael Espinal, meanwhile, slammed the idea, arguing that 100 percent of marijuana revenues should be invested back into the communities most heavily targeted by drug enforcement.
"That revenue has the potential to create transformational economic and community development opportunities, but not if it’s siphoned off to help fund transportation in other parts of New York City," he said. "Let’s be clear—a sensible and fair approach to marijuana legalization means we have to recognize the historic injustices around drug law enforcement and reform."
UPDATE: 12:15 p.m.: More interpreters will be allowed inside polling locations today, after a Brooklyn judge ruled against the Board of Elections on Monday. The Board had sued the city over additional interpreters hired by the city to expand assistance to non-English speakers, insisting they remain outside unless brought in by a voter.
While the issue of where, exactly, translators are permitted to stand has created ongoing issues in previous elections, Susan Lerner of Common Cause says she hasn't heard any complaints yet. "It's our understanding that the interpreters are inside and working to serve those who need them," she told Gothamist.