As citizens across the country exercised their right to vote on November 7, some New York voters faced a blank ballot, with important local government positions to be left vacant after Election Day, absent other intervention. In one unsettling example, Steuben County featured fourteen positions with no candidates on the ballot, found Trailblazers PAC, the nonpartisan clean government organization.
“We recently pointed out how often candidates stroll through Election Day uncontested, leaving voters with no voice. This is worse. Not only are voters shut out of the conversation, there’s no one to fill the position. This happens when government is divorced from citizens. At Trailblazers PAC, we focus on reconnecting voters to democracy by moving politics out of the back room, onto the front porch,” said Trailblazers PAC founder and President Leslie Danks Burke.
The Steuben County Towns of Troupsburg and Lindley both had numerous vacancies for important seats. In Lindley, the town justice seat, two council seats, and two assessor seats were left empty on the ballot.
In addition to seats with no one to fill them, voters in Steuben County found nearly every countywide seat unopposed, including the eight county legislature seats, Coroner, and the Supreme Court JD Delegate for the 7th District. The Surrogate Court Judge was the only county position with a contested race, but one of those candidates dropped out in October. As a result of uncontested races at the county level, plus empty local races, citizens in the Town of Troupsburg did not have a single contested election to vote on.
“Honest government starts at the ballot box when voters get a real choice of candidates to represent their values. Uncontested races and empty races push voters out of the decision. Voters are closest to local politics, and Trailblazers PAC builds from the ground up to help citizens take back their democracy,” said Danks Burke.
This is the latest in voting-related research done by Trailblazers PAC. In September, the organization produced a report showing that where a primary essentially determines the outcome of the general election, just 3% of voters end up choosing the representation for everyone else. Earlier this month, Trailblazers PAC released statistics showing that over two-thirds of races in upstate New York counties like Schuyler, Schoharie, Tompkins, and Steuben were uncontested, leaving voters with no real vote on Election Day.