Jumaane Williams Wins as Public Advocate; Turnout is Mediocre

By Alice Chambers and Elizabeth Mulvey

At 5:55 a.m. the first voter arrived at the polling station on the Upper East Side. At 9:01 p.m., just over 15 hours and 2,160 votes later, the last voter left.

At 9:48 p.m.,  the results were in and Jumaane Williams declared the winner of the special election for public advocate to replace Letitia James.

Williams was one of 17 candidates. He won over 133,000 votes out of over 402,000. There are just over 5.1 million registered voters in New York City, which means that voter turnout was at just under 8 percent.  In comparison to the the last mayoral election in 2017, 1,092,746 people turned out to vote, around 21.7 percent of registered voters.

The special election for public advocate was triggered when Leticia James left the position early to take up the post of New York State Attorney General in Albany. In November, New York will organize another public advocate election to fill the post until 2021. That, combined with the large number of candidates led many to expect low voter turnout. 

“Compared to big ones, it was mediocre, you know, not high, not low, mediocre,” said Cici Collins, one of three election coordinators at Polling Station 165 on the Upper West Side. She’d been there since 5 a.m. setting up the station. 

Collins has been an election coordinator for five years, and a poll worker for 15 years before that. During the 2016 presidential election, and the midterms last November, lines to vote were “crazy, crazy, crazy” with people queuing out the door. Not so this year.

Further uptown in Harlem at the polling station at Oberia De. Dempsey Multi-Service Center on West 127th Street, L. Williams has manned the polls for the last 31 years. She says she doesn’t work 15 hour-days for the pay—workers get about $15 an hour, but because she believes in the process.

She said the Harlem station’s first vote was cast at 6:04 a.m., and that a steady stream of voters cast their ballot during the day.

“Beginning to end, this community comes out,” she said.

“The people need someone to speak for us,” she added, “you have to have this election because without it there will be no check on the mayor.”

The last voter of the night at the 127th Street polling station, Emile Sudow, said he also believes there must be more oversight of the mayor, especially in how he’s handled the New York City Housing Authority. “Public housing is not a priority for him,” he said.

When asked what de Blasio’s priorities were? “Going to the gym,” he said.


Voting tallies were updated at 11:45am on Feb. 27 2019 as final precincts report.