In New York State, 3% of Voters Decide Representation for Other 97% of Residents

Around 3% of people choose who represents everyone else, is the key takeaway of a Trailblazers PAC analysis of New York State’s recent elections.

While numerous reports examine voter turnout, Trailblazers PAC analyzed primary turnout relative to the full population of a district, not just eligible voters. The analysis found that when low voter turnout piles onto a second factor – primaries as the determinative election for public office – tiny fractions of voters end up deciding who represents everyone else.

In New York City’s September 12th elections, an average of 3.26% of each district’s population voted for the winning primary candidate, who either won’t be opposed, or is all but certain to prevail on November 7. In other words, 3.26% of New York City’s population just determined leadership for themselves and the remaining 96.74%.

The same pattern occurs across the state and across party lines. Single-digit percentages of residents chose the Mayoral primary election winners in Albany (6.27%), Buffalo (3.19%), Rochester (3.92%) and Syracuse (2.93%). In Rensselaer County, just 1.69% of the county’s population voted for the winning GOP candidate for County Executive; Tompkins County showed 2% average across districts.

“Voters opt out because they feel like their choices don’t matter. That ends up making the problem worse, because any politician who only needs 3% of the residents is less likely to worry about their entire district,” said Leslie Danks Burke, founder and President of Trailblazers PAC.

“The beauty is that this problem is solvable. At Trailblazers PAC, we want voters’ voices to be the most important in the room again, and we’re educating representatives that they need to step up, too,” Danks Burke said.

In workshops across New York and Pennsylvania, Trailblazers PAC educates local candidates on “Front Porch Politics”, or how to power their campaigns through local fundraising and direct voter communication. “We focus locally because residents can interact more with local leaders, so power shifts out of the back room to voters faster. That builds up. People who feel invested in candidates grow more connected to their democracy and vote in higher numbers,” Danks Burke said.

The non-partisan Trailblazers PAC was founded in the wake of the 2016 election to educate and fund candidates working toward honest government. With over 100 candidates in the organization’s education and endorsement pipeline who are running in 2017 across New York and Pennsylvania, Trailblazers PAC has funded candidates in diverse and far-flung locations. Candidates seeking endorsement should request an application at