For the first time in modern political history, fewer city of Rochester residents voted in the November general election than in the primary. In the interest of voter empowerment, democratic legitimacy, and a broadly representative, functioning local government, we should take steps to make sure this does not happen again.
There are solutions to low urban turnout that have proven effective in cities and states that have recognized the issue as a crisis and moved to address it. And it is a crisis.
Rochester Mayor Malik Evans was effectively chosen by 12 percent of city voters, whose primary ballots moved him into the general election, where he faced no opponent. Meanwhile, City Council and school board candidates who won their primaries faced token opposition on the November ballot. Roughly 800 fewer city voters turned out in November than for the June primary. The result was that only 18 percent of city voters cast ballots in the general election, with some areas of the city seeing less than 10 percent turnout.