November 9, 2011
Word Count: 640
Morale was down at the polls last Tuesday night, at least in Astoria, Queens, where voter turnout for the general elections was at an all-time low.
Frank Sinatra High School, located at 35-12 35th Ave, was one of four polling sites in Astoria. Only 110 voters showed up to cast their ballots to decide who were to be elected to the state and city-level positions, which ranged from district attorney to judgeship titles, according to Angelina Welby, 78, one of the ballot inspectors for the 53rd District.
“I’ll be honest, I was surprised there were even that many,” said Welby, who is currently retired. “It’s been very slow. We got more today than we did on primaries. Primary day we only had three, at least today I got fifteen.”
Welby noted that before she arrived at the polling location, she had no idea who the candidates were. “I had a few friends of mine ask me, ‘Wait a minute, what are we voting for?’ I said ‘I don’t know, I’ll find out when I go to work,’” she said with a laugh.
Perhaps one reason for the low voter numbers was a lack of awareness. Maria Frazetta, 47, a personal trainer, said she would not have come to the polls if she did not receive a flyer in the mail.
“It’s not a very prominent one, not like the presidential election, because this is more elected officials. If I hadn’t gotten the thing in the mail, I probably wouldn’t have known about it,” she said.
When asked about whether the Occupy Wall Street protests have hindered voter participation, Frazetta, who had been a poll worker in the past, said the opposite applied.
“If anything, it’s bringing more attention to make people want to start getting out there. It’s just going to take a little while to get the reaction to do something about it. People either can’t be bothered, or they don’t believe in the system anymore,” she said.
Other voters, like Gloria Elias, 81, said voting is a “privilege” and that she has been voting since she turned 18.
“We’re in America and it’s one of the great things about it: that people are able to vote. My family has always believed in voting. When my mother was too ill to come to vote, she always used an absentee ballot and always had her vote cast, so it was always important for me.”
For another voter, Powell Griggs, a City of New York Department of Finance property tax assessor, polling location proximity was key to whether or not he cast his vote.
“I live three blocks from here. How can you say, ‘Oh, it’s too far for me to go?’ I won’t lie to you; it’s not a big patriotic effort on my part. It’s easy. But isn’t that what it’s supposed to be all about?” he said.
Pollworker Cynthia Tolbert, 72, said the low turnout came as a surprise to her.
“Usually a lot of people do show up to vote. But this is a judicial vote, and I don’t even know who these people are. I’ve never heard of them before. So a lot of people just don’t know. I’m not even going to vote for this. I might vote for the wrong person,” she said.
Tolbert feels voting is important now, more than ever, in light of the tense atmosphere of the recent protests.
“People are fed up. They are tired; they don’t like the way things are going. They want to get out all those corrupt and greedy politicians, and put some more greedy corrupt politicians. I haven’t seen any change, really. You just take the chance on who you think is a better person. That’s all it is, is a chance,” she said.
Poll results for the election were not available at press time, said the Queens Board of Elections department.