NEW YORK CITY — New Yorkers are set to return to the polls again on Thursday to cast their votes in the state’s Senate and Assembly primaries.
In most heavily Democratic districts, the vote will likely determine which lawmakers return to Albany. But turnout is expected to be dismal in what is now the third primary of the election season.
To add to the confusion, Voting Day has been moved from the typical Tuesday to a rare Thursday to avoid conflicting with the anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks — making the day seem especially strange.
"It's very confusing for people," said Joan Laufer, a campaign volunteer from Washington Heights, who woke up at dawn Wednesday to hand out last-minute fliers for two Upper Manhattan candidates and remind registered Democrats to head to the polls, which will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
Among those in the dark was Rhina Torres, 24, who lives in Washington Heights, and admitted that she had no idea there was an election Thursday, even though she typically votes.
"It's hard to keep track," she said of the packed primary season, which included a presidential primary in April, and Congressional primary in July. "It really sucks because there's so many elections in one year and you're really focused on the big one, not the little one."
The day is expected to be further complicated by brand new Assembly and Senate district lines, which have changed many voters’ districts and polling places, as well as lingering doubts over the competency of the Board of Elections, which bungled the ballot count in June's Congressional race between Rep. Charlie Rangel and State Sen. Adriano Espaillat so badly that it took weeks to learn the final results.
The board approved new counting procedures to avoid another fiasco, but doubts remain.
The U.S. Department of Justice, for instance, announced Wednesday that it will be sending inspectors to monitor voting in the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan, following reports of discrimination against Spanish-speaking voters during the Rangel-Espaillat race.
Board of Elections Commissioner J.C. Polanco brushed off the concerns and need for monitoring.
"We are prepared for tomorrow. We're working very hard," he told NY1 Wednesday night. "You're going to get more accurate results."
Here are some of the races to watch:
The two long-time rivals are pitted against each other once again — this time fighting for their political lives to remain in Albany. When incumbent State Sen. Adriano Espaillat decided to challenge Rep. Charlie Rangel in the Congressional primary, Assemblyman Guillermo Linares saw a chance to trade up his seat. But Espaillat lost, forcing the two to face off. The race has recently gotten nasty, with Espaillat accusing Linares of "betraying" Latino voters by endorsing Rangel in June.
With Assemblyman Guillermo Linares running for the State Senate, his seat in the lower chamber is now up for grabs. The front-runners appear to be Mayra Linares and Gabriela Rosa, two young women with deep roots in the communality, whose campaigns are tightly tied to their senate counterparts: Linares is the daughter of Guillermo Linares, leading to charges of nepotism; Gabriela Rosa has been endorsed by Espaillat. Also running in the race are former candidate Ruben Vargas and Melanie Hidalgo, who has worked as a tax auditor and for the United Nations.
The retirement of long-time State Sen. Tom Duane marks the end of an era on the West Side. The overwhelming favorite to take his place is Brad Hoylman, the former chair of Manhattan's Community Board 2, who has been endorsed by Duane. Also in the race are Hell's Kitchen activist and bar owner Tom Greco and public school teacher and former Yonkers NAACP leader Tanika Inlaw.
10th Senate District, Queens: Shirley Huntley vs. James Sanders Jr. vs. Gian Jones
Is a federal investigation enough to scare off voters in State Sen. Shirley Huntley’s 10th Senate District? Huntley was arrested last month on charges of covering up the theft of taxpayer money earmarked for the Long Island non-profit she founded. (She has pleaded not guilty.) That's opened the door to City Councilman James Sanders Jr., who was already mounting a serious race before news of the scandal broke. Also in the race is Far Rockaway resident Gian Jones, who works in real estate.
Bronx Assemblywoman Naomi Rivera is under investigation for allegedly stealing from her own non-profit and hiring two former boyfriends for well-paid taxpayer-funded positions. While that may not be a dealbreaker for voters, the scandal has opened the door for three potential challengers, including best bet Mark Gjonaj, a real estate agent with deep pockets and ties to the local Albanian community. Also running are Adam Bermudez, Irene Estrada Rukaj.
55th Assembly District, Brooklyn: William Boyland Jr. v. Roy Antoine v. Anthony Herbert v. Anthony Jones v. David Miller v. Nathan Bradley v. Christopher Durosinmi
With ethics troubles of his own (he's been accused of taking bribes to pay his legal bills for another alleged scandal), William Boyland Jr. is being forced to fend off a gaggle of challengers, including Roy Antoine, Anthony Herbert, Anthony Jones, David Miller, Nathan Bradley and Christopher Durosinmi. Among the more visible are Nathan Bradley, deputy chief of staff to Sen. John Sampson and chair of Brooklyn's Community Board 5 and Anthony Herber, a community activist.