Last Tuesday November 27 saw very low voter turnout on Primary Election Day in New York City to choose a candidate for each political party to be its standard bearer in New York City Council general elections to be held the first Tuesday in November. Guyanese, Trinis, South Asians and other New Yorkers were urged to come out and vote. Polls opened at 06:00 hours (6:00am) and closed at 21:00 hours (9:00pm). There was also early voting at selected sites around the city.
To win a primary, a candidate must have more than 50% of the votes. Voters cast ballot in a Ranked Choice Voting (RCV) where voters cast ballot in order of preference — first, second, third, etc. Results were coming in slowly. It appeared that less than 10% voters cast ballots.
Primary election selects the candidate or nominee for a council seat or other city office for a party. All positions were up for grab except the Mayoralty which is due in two years. The candidates who filed nominations on the ballot must meet basic conditions including acquiring hundreds of signatures of voters in the district. Once qualified, the nominees within each party are placed on the ballot. The candidate with a majority of votes through a preference rated system, with a second or third preference voting, even if it is not the most votes in the first round of voting, gets the nomination. The nominee of each party and independents face off in the November ballot.
Council elections are held every four years for a four year term. The last City Council election was in 2021. This year, there is a special mid-term off-cycle council election. In 2002, New York City voters passed a referendum requiring special midterm council elections in a term every twenty years. The law took effect in 2003, midway through a term that usually ends the following January. A mid-term council off-cycle election is due this year with the term ending in January. All 51 seats were up for grabs. Not many New Yorkers were/are aware of the 2002 law and even fewer Guyanese or West Indians voters across ethnicities are familiar with the law or that there was an off-cycle election this year. Early voting began last week and so far only 10,000 in Queens The borough has over one million voters. A candidate may well win next Tuesday’s council primary seat with a thousand votes for a council seat and a few thousands for a county-wide or city-wide position.
A few Guyanese and other Caribbean people were on the ballot for seats all over the city. Some challenged established incumbents in Queens including in the greater Little Guyana (Richmond Hill) neighborhood that is represented by the Speaker of the Council Adrienne Adams (no relationship with the Mayor Eric Adams). The Mayor’s term is not affected by this off cycle election. His term expires in 2025 when he is up for re-election. He is expected to win re-election.
Besides those seeking nomination for a seat in the primary, several Guyanese were involved in the election – volunteering or fundraising and/ or engaged in grassroots campaigning of their favored candidate. Several Guyanese were engaged in phone banking, door knocking, and literature distribution on the streets and house to house.
Several Guyanese donated funds or attended fundraisers for NYC Council Speaker and Council Member Adrienne Adams as well as Rusat Ramgopal who challenged Speaker Adrienne Adams.
Ashook Ramsaran, Guyanese born president of the Indian Diaspora Council (IDC), long time US citizen residing in Queens, appealed to Guyanese to partake in the voting process and other aspects of the election. He stated: “Voting is the optimum form of civic engagement and political participation, providing a rewarding sense of citizenship with enormous benefits to their communities such as funding for schools and other community needs based on population and voting participation. Voting is a privilege, an entrenched constitutional right for which many have struggled and sacrificed for that right to choose his/her representative in elected office. While some areas of the country are struggling with voting rights, voting in NYC is free of those encumbrances. The right to vote is a unique privilege as a citizen and a meaningful example to families and younger generations, especially among immigrant families. Those who vote can have legitimate reasons to complain afterwards when policies may not be favorable to one’s preferences. So we urge every registered voter to vote for the candidates of your choice”.
Community leaders have urged Guyanese, other Caribbean as well as Asian Indians and other voters to come out on Tuesday and cast ballots for their favored candidate in the council election.