Hunter West Election--A Quiet AffairKimberly Milner
A Special Election was held on Primary Day, September 13, to fill a vacancy in state assembly district 73. Voting took place in Hunter West's lobby as well as several other locations in the area between 40th and 96th streets on Manhattan’s east side. Democrat Daniel Quart beat out republican Paul Niehaus, securing 64 percent of the vote.
Polls opened at 6 AM and closed at 9 PM. Voters were directed to a row of processing tables and one of three electronic voting booths throughout the day. A barricade was erected in the lobby to provide Hunter students access to the west-lobby Starbucks which shared its space that day. According to an election worker present at the election site, more than 300 people had shown up at Hunter to vote.
Being largely a commuter school, most students were not eligible to vote in the district 73 elections, however, the sight of election equipment and the lines of upper-east-side voters encouraged students to vote in their own home districts.
Twenty-year-old anthropology major Isha Byrce said she would make sure to vote when she got returned to her district that day. “My people have been through a lot. Of course, I'm going to read up on my candidates before I vote,” she said.
Throughout the rest of the city some offices on the 2011 ballot were a city council seat in Queens district 28, district attorney positions in the Bronx, Queens and Staten Island, and judicial positions for State Supreme Court and City Civil Courts.
In early August, Hunter Vice President Eija Ayravainen sent an email to the student body with information regarding employment with the Board of Elections. According to the email, students could earn up to $600 as an inspector and up to $460 as an interpreter. Both positions would require attending training sessions.
Candace McDermott, 63, a self-employed real estate appraiser, said she took the day off to vote at Hunter. “I normally do not vote midterm like this,” she said, “but I’m voting today because I think it’s important that we have as many democrats out to vote as possible, because I’m really concerned about what’s going on in the Republican primary for president.”
John Quirke, a recently unemployed financial worker in his mid 40's, said he voted Republican. Although he said he doubted whether Niehaus could make an effective impact on Albany, Quirk said he thought the election symbolic. “I wanted to send a message to the Democratic party that there are in fact Republicans in Manhattan who haven’t given up.”
Niehaus ran on a financial platform and pledged to work towards “restoring fiscal sanity.” He promised to lower taxes and reduce government regulations of businesses, among other things. Some of Quart’s pledges were to work towards securing funding for new school construction, restructuring the MTA, and supporting legislation to provide additional rent protection to seniors.
Most voters and city officials alike considered the Quart-Niehaus Special Election relatively small. The candidates electioneering efforts, however, were more pronounced. Near the Halal cart across the street and the bike racks outside the West Building’s entrance were six-foot tall Quart posters that featured the candidate with Congresswoman Carolyn Maloney. Niehaus posters could be found on 5th Ave between 65th and 67th street, as well as on Park Avenue and 67th street. Election regulations, according to a spokesperson from “The League of Women Voters of the City of New York” prohibited sponsored posters within 100 feet of the poll site.
The election did not intrude on the regular Hunter day, and janitor Jason Bourne did not notice a change to his beat. Students said the police on site were a non-issue. “They don’t seem to be stopping anyone,” said 21-year-old studio arts and English major Robyn Tang. “The last couple of days there haven’t been any seats there. It was a minor inconvenience.”
This election may have brought only minor disruptions, but on November eighth the next set of primaries is set to occur at Hunter and polling stations around the city for which a much larger turnout is expected.