Examining voter demographics in Erie County

Don't count out impact on third-party voters

Mike Baggerman
October 11, 2018 - 3:00 am

Downtown Buffalo. October 9, 2018 (WBEN Photo/Mike Baggerman)

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BUFFALO, N.Y. (WBEN) - Erie County has over 500,000 registered voters for this year's midterm elections, though not all of them consider themselves Republicans or Democrats.

Approximately 433,297 voters are registered as either Democrat or Republican, though that represents about 73 percent of the electorate. Over 100,000 voters are considered "Blank" (No Party) while another 28,426 are considered part of the "Independence" party. The latter two parties combined only make up about 23 percent of the vote. 

"Certainly you have the non-traditional type voting in Erie County," Ralph Mohr, Republican Commissioner of the Erie County Board of Elections, told WBEN. "You don't see people voting straight parties all that often. It's a fairly conservative county, so you have a number of Democrats which have traditionally voted either conservative or for a conservative democratic candidate." 

Mohr said there's been an increase in the number of independent voters of the last decade. Part of this can be attributed to the increased partisanship. However, he noted that the proportions between Democrats and Republicans have stayed nearly the same in his 25 years as commissioner. 

VIEW ERIE COUNTY VOTER DEMOGRAPHICS HERE

"We have about 580,000 registered voters," Mohr said. "I know independence party voters and blank party voters make up about 130,000 of that 580,000. That is a good audience for people in the minor parties and for Republicans, particularly, to go after. Democrats, as you've seen, have also gone after blank and independence voters. While you may have a county in which it's 2-to-1 Democrat over Republican, the races are far more competitive. Much of it has to do with conservative democrats and independence and blank voters."

Breakdown of voters in Erie County

  • Democrats: 282,708 (47.93%)
  • Republican: 150,589 (25.53%)
  • Blank: 106,033 (17.98%)
  • Independence: 28,426 (4.82%)
  • Conservative: 13,147 (2.23%)
  • Working Families: 2,840 (0.48%)
  • Libertarian: 2,423 (0.41%)
  • Green: 1,718 (0.29%)
  • Right to Life: 1,190 (0.20%)
  • Other: 361 (0.06%)

Parties can become major parties in New York State by receiving 50,000 votes in a gubernatorial election. 

One such party is the Green Party. Erie County's Green Party Chairman is Eric Jones and he thinks there's a frustration and apathy from policies by both Democrats and opposition. 

"The biggest obstacle we have is actually primary elections," Jones said. "For many races in Buffalo and the surrounding areas, elections are uncontested so the primary election becomes the election. You have a lot of registered Democrats and Republicans that are sympathetic to third parties but want to lose that ability to vote in primaries. We get a lot of support in the general election from Democrats, from Republicans, but they don't show up on the voter rolls."

Erie County's Green Party has 1,718 registered voters. That's less than half a percentage point.

Jones thinks the trend of people increasing their votes for third parties will continue.

"Unless you see a massive change in the outlook of Democrats and Republicans (we'll see the trend continue," Jones added. "Just this week you had a report on climate change which says we basically have 12-15 years to fix this problem. We've heard nothing from the two major parties. Until you see big issues like that tackled and big economic issues to help the people who are struggling, you are going to see people looking for other options. There's just the general frustration and people are looking for answers."

Outside of New York City, there are 2.8 million registered democratic voters and 2.3 registered republicans. There are approximately 560,539 voters who are registered to neither party.

Altogether, New York State has 6.2 million registered Democrats and 2.8 million Republicans. There are approximately 727,457 third-party voters across the state. 

VIEW STATEWIDE NUMBERS HERE

IN DEPTH


 

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