SYRACUSE, N.Y. — Just as it was for many citizens across the United States, Tuesday was Election Day for the residents of Central New York. There were plenty of races up for grabs throughout the region, including Syracuse Mayor.
Independent candidate Ben Walsh and Democrat Juanita Perez Williams came into the day deadlocked in the latest polls. However, by the end of the night, Walsh emerged as the winner, garnering 54 percent of the votes.
But the race itself wasn’t the only storyline, as less than 30,000 registered voters in Syracuse cast a ballot. This has been the case for the past three mayoral election cycles, leaving many to speculate about a trend of declining voter turnout. Grant Reeher, Professor of Political Science at Syracuse University, however, cautions anyone from doing so.
“You really have to be careful about looking at four, five, six, whatever data points and identifying what you think might be a trend without drilling down into each one of those elections,” he said.
In fact, Dustin Cazrny, Democratic Elections Commissioner of Onondaga County, saw this year’s turnout as encouraging for the years ahead.
“You saw large turnouts for local elections. Larger than normal,” he said. “And while still not great — 37 percent is never something that you want to write home about — but it’s much better than it was, and hopefully we can build on that in the future.”
The 37 percent refers to the total percentage of eligible voters that voiced their opinion at the polls. Czarny believes that the percentages are more reliable points of data than the raw numbers themselves. However, even those percentages are relatively low.
As to why these numbers have remained low over the past three cycles, Reeher said it’s all about the competition. Something that a mayoral race in Syracuse hasn’t truly seen since 2005.
“It was a very competitive election,” he said. “It was very close. Because of its competitiveness and its and because of the association with this very high-profile conflict regarding economic development of that area, and because of the people involved, it got a lot of attention. And it got a lot of press coverage. That’s why you see that number a lot higher than the other numbers.”
But knowing why some local elections receive a higher turnout than others doesn’t make estimating it any easier.
“You don’t know the individuals that are going to be involved and you don’t know what the issues are going to be and how prominent and how much conflict those issues are going to create,” he said. “It would really be hard to predict.”
However, in four years, Czarny hopes that the city will see larger crowds at the polls. After all, it for their own good.
“Knowing what is on the ballot, knowing who is on the ballot and knowing who your local representatives will change your life on a daily basis way more than at the national election.”