Did Sandy Cost Ulrich A Senate Seat?

In the end of the ugly exercise in reciprocal intellectual bankruptcy that was this year’s 15th SD Senate race, incumbent Joe Addabbo beat Councilman Eric Ulrich 42,187 (57.57%) to 31,036 (42.36%), with 51 write-in votes going to others (which shows remarkable restraint on the part of the voters).  

The magnitude of Ulrich’s defeat is emphasized by the fact that he lost his home base in the 23rd AD 9,481 to 9041. In the end, Ulrich even lost the white Christian and presumably conservative 30th AD. Ulrich’s only victory came in the district’s mostly Orthodox Jewish portion of the 27th AD (he also managed a 22 to 22 tie in the District’s tiny portion of the 39th AD).

Perhaps Ulrich can take consolation in the fact that he was also the runner up in 10th SD (where he and Shirley Huntley each attracted 14 write in votes) and the 14th, where Ulrich’s write-ins gave him second place to the shamefully unopposed “Democrat” Malcolm Smith.

The question remains. Did Ulrich lose because of Hurricane Sandy?

A full 29% of the 23rd AD’s votes were cast on affidavit ballots, the highest number in the City by a large margin. Many of these affidavits were cast in polling places outside the Senate District, resulting in no vote being cast in that race.

This is borne out by the fact that of the 24,238 ballots cast by voters in the 23rd’s portion of this district, 5,705 contained no vote for State Senate, the hottest race on the ballot (if it was on the ballot). This is a rate of 23.54%.

By contrast, in the SD’s next largest turnout AD, the landlocked 28th, 22,644 ballots were cast and only 2,264 votes were unrecorded, a rate of 10.00%. District-wide, there were 85,144 ballots cast, and 11,869 unrecorded, a rate of 13.94%. It is noted that though the 23rd accounted for 28.47% of the ballots cast in the State Senate race, it accounted for only 25.29% of the votes recorded. More tellingly, the 23rd accounted for 48.07% of the affidavit ballots cast.

Now, not every unrecorded vote was because of the storm. A lot of voters in the Presidential year drop off after they cast their vote for the White House. So,  let’s say that instead of a rate of 23.54%, the rate of unrecorded votes in the State Senate race in the 23rd AD portion of the district race was more in line with the 10% rate in of the 28th AD; using 10% as a metric, would mean that normally only 2,424 votes would have been unrecorded. Subtracting this from the total unrecorded vote of 5,705, would mean that approximately 3,281 voters who cast ballots were disenfranchised by Sandy from voting in the Senate race.

But what about those who didn’t vote?

Well, every Assembly District is the same size, but the number of votes cast varies widely. For instance, the black majority ADs in Queens had far higher turnouts this year than the others.   

This year voters in the 23rd AD cast only 31,370 ballots. I am going to be generous and posit that were it not for the storm, the 23rd AD would have cast as many votes as the highest performing white majority AD in Queens, the 28th, which cast 39,953. This is a difference of 8,583. I am going to assume that the storm did not affect Special Federal voters, who cannot cast votes in state level races, and therefore not assume there are not any among those 8000 voters. Even though over 7,000 of the votes cast in the entire 23rd AD came from outside the 15th Senate District, I am going to assume that all 8,000 plus voters who could not cast ballots are from the 23rd SD, which includes the areas of the AD which were hardest hit by the storm.

I will, however, assume that the 10% rate of unrecorded votes still applies, so subtracting 858 from 8,583 leaves us a total of 7,753 votes which would have been cast in the Senate race if only the voters had been able to get to the polls.

Adding the 3,281 voters disenfranchised by casting affidavit ballots which did not contain the race, this leaves us 11,006 votes which were not cast in the State Senate race in the 23rd AD because of Sandy.

Ulrich lost by 11,084. Therefore, even if he picked up every single one of those votes, he still would have lost.

Since the areas worst hit by the storm were Ulrich strongholds like Breezy Point, Broad Channel, Bayswater and Far Rockaway, I think it is fair to say that, but for Sandy, Ulrich would not have lost the 23rd AD.

But it is preposterous to say that, but for Sandy, he would not have lost the election. .