New York City doesn't sleep, but New York state definitely votes. On Tuesday, Republican and Democratic voters across the Empire State headed to the polls to cast ballots in their respective party's presidential primary. Voter turnout soared across New York, but several complaints from voters suggest that it could have been even higher, particularly in races as talked-about and competitive as the current ones.
With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Democratic voters in New York had cast more than 1.7 million votes in Tuesday's primary. Considering there were just over 5.2 million registered Democratic voters in the state as of April 1, preliminary voter turnout rates for the Democratic primary topped 32 percent. Similar turnout rates seemed to occur on the Republican side. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, New York Republicans had cast some 800,000 votes, out of the more than 2.5 million registered Republican voters. That amounts to a turnout rate of about 31 percent.
It's important to note that these numbers reflect only those registered voters considered "active" by the New York Board of Elections. Even still, when the turnout rates are calculated with both active and inactive voters included, similar rates emerge. (Another important note: These rates only refer to registered Republican voters and registered Democratic voters, separately. New York only allows voters registered with one of these two parties to vote in its primaries. More on this later.)
The high turnout in Tuesday's primary was particularly encouraging considering that New York's voter registration laws were harshly criticized on Tuesday, as many voters were reportedly unable to cast ballots throughout the day. The state has a closed primary system, meaning that voters must be registered with either the Republican party or the Democratic party in order to vote in their party's primary. They had to be registered to vote by late March — a deadline that two of Republican frontrunner Donald Trump's children reportedly missed, by the way. However, voters had to be registered with a specific party back in October in order to cast their ballot on Tuesday, in April. In other words, independent voters — or voters who decided to switch their party alignment since the last time they voted — had to be registered almost four months before the 2016 primary process even started with February's Iowa caucuses.
On Monday, more than 200 New York voters filed a lawsuit over the state's strict voter registration laws. Sure, they probably should have taken action earlier than the day before the primary, but voter registration laws aren't an issue that's often associated with states north of the Mason-Dixon line. Ultimately, New York's primaries were not opened by Tuesday, and many voters across the state may have been unable to vote due to their registration woes. In fact, the state attorney general's office received roughly four times as many complaints on Tuesday as it did back in the 2012 election, with many frustrated voters complaining that they were turned away at the polls for reasons associated with their registration.
Irregularities in voter registration data and poll operations also caused the state comptroller to initiate an audit on Tuesday of the New York City Board of Elections' practices. It appeared that some 126,000 voters had been removed from voter rolls in Brooklyn and were denied the ability to vote, however the board's director quickly offered an explanation. He told CNN that the reduction of voters was due to those voters who had either moved out of the borough or had let their registration status become inactive.
High voter turnout has set this year's election cycle apart from so many previous presidential election years. Election after election, turnout in the United States is notoriously low, however several states have seen voter turnout rates upwards of 30 percent in the primaries alone this time around. Despite the controversy surrounding New York's poll operations and voter registration practices, the Empire State added to this year's trend of high primary turnout.