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Elections Past and Present

The Village is quiet today, as if enjoying a lull after the storm of elections.  After months of predictions telling us the likely outcome, the predictions mostly came true, and it’s over — whether one feels that’s for better or worse.

So – a collective sigh. And, in the lull, here’s a gentler look back at election days and nights of past years.

I was on Broadway last night, and I confess it did not look like this drawing from 1912, courtesy of the wonderful NYPL Digital Collection:

Elex blog - Broadway
“Broadway on Election Night.”

But there have been more lively election nights in the recent past. On the night of Tuesday, November 4, 2008, crowds filled streets across New York City to celebrate Barack Obama’s election as president.  The jubilation of six years ago was a far cry from the near-silence with which President Obama met last night’s debacle.

Obama supporters celebrate his election in Times Square
Six years ago: Celebrating Obama’s election in Times Square. Photo by Allan Tannenbaum.

Voter turnout was low across New York state  yesterday. According to the Democrat & Chronicle, 3.6 million people voted statewide — just 32.5% of the 10.9 million active registered voters. That’s significantly less that the approximately 4.7 million ballots cast in each of the past three gubernatorial elections. Many of us who did vote came out of our polling places depressed from having little company there. (Shouldn’t there be so many voters that the faithful poll workers don’t remember you from last time?)
It almost makes you wish we had enough enthusiasm to cause this problem:

Elex blog - Jail
“The Presidential Election In America : Fraudulent Voters In Custody At The United States Circuit Court, New York.” Published 1876.

This lonely photo by Berenice Abbott, shot as part of the Federal Art Project c. 1936, pairs a demolished Village structure with a forgotten politician. The distinctive string of 1840s houses called Rhinelander Row was razed in 1937. And John A. Byrnes was an Assemblyman from Manhattan’s 12th District who was running (successfully, it turned out) for justice of the New York City Court.

Elex blog - Rhinelander
“Rhinelander Row: II. Seventh Avenue between 12th and 13th streets, Manhattan.”

And finally, a view of New York’s state senate districts as of c. 1840. Our three statewide propositions all passed, including Prop. One which is intended to improve the districting process, making it less political. The districts below look so … normal! You can see here what our districts look like now.

Elex blog - old Senate map
“State of New York divided into senatorial districts. [1840?]”
Between now and next election, we can see if the new process leads to less gerrymandering.


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