Can Declining Voter Turnout In Brooklyn Be Reversed?

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Registering to vote. (Photo via NYC Board of Elections Facebook page)

As discussion of the historic 2016 presidential election continues, one statistic especially worries democracy advocates — declining voter turnout across Brooklyn and the state.

Voter turnout in Brooklyn has dropped steadily since 2008, with 53.9 percent of the borough’s active voters casting a ballot in 2016, reports the NY Public Interest Research Group.

This matches the overall trend across New York City and New York State — where turnout dropped from 2008 to 2012, and again from 2012 to 2016. Turnout among active registered voters in the five boroughs was 56.3 percent last week, and was 62.5 percent across the state.

It’s important to note the exception in New York City — Staten Island — where active voter participation increased this year, relative to the last presidential election. See NYPIRG’s chart below, which shows active voter turnout by borough, in 2008, 2012, and 2016.

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Courtesy NYPIRG

NYPIRG defines “active” voters as persons who have voted in at least one of the previous two federal election cycles, or who have verified their active status with their county’s Board of Elections.

What Happened Last Week?
The drop in voter turnout is surprising, says NYPIRG, because both the state and city saw real increases in the number of active voters over the past year. Indeed, there was a 9 percent increase in active New York City voters.

Did a growing number of voters become so disenchanted with both presidential candidates that they opted out altogether?

This year’s ballot had other reasons, at least in theory, for voters to come out. There were also Senatorial, Congressional and State Legislative candidates to choose between. But again, fewer voters may have felt their choices were meaningful.

Was Higher Voter Turnout In 2008 Just A Blip?
What has happened across Brooklyn, and New York, matches the national trend.

About 57 percent of eligible U.S. voters cast ballots last week, down from 58.6 percent in 2012 and 61.6 percent in 2008, reports FiveThirtyEight. The 2008 presidential elections, in which Barack Obama was elected for the first time, had the highest national voter participation rate in 40 years.

National turnout this year, while lower, “still remained well above levels for most presidential election years from 1972 to 2000,” FiveThirtyEight observes.

What do you think? Can voter turnout be increased?