The plan to borrow $400 million to build a new Coliseum and baseball park in Nassau was rejected by voters in 18 of the county's 19 legislative districts, according to Board of Elections data.
Voters in the 10th Legislative District, which includes Great Neck, voted against the bonding to build a new home for the Islanders hockey team by the largest margin -- 75 percent to 25 percent. Countywide, the referendum was defeated 57 percent to 43 percent.
The only district to approve the borrowing was the 17th, the seat formerly held by the project's champion, County Executive Edward Mangano. There, in a district that includes Bethpage, voters approved the referendum 51 percent to 49 percent.
"The people of Nassau County are not willing to invest or take risk in building a publicly financed arena," Mangano said at a news conference Tuesday. "It does not mean we will abandon that path. It means we are going to seek a different path."
Voter turnout was low, with 155,218 out of 899,343 registered voters, or 17.26 percent, casting ballots. On average, a larger percentage of the electorate showed up at the polls in districts represented by Republicans than in those held by Democratic legislators. The average turnout in Republican-held districts was 18.5 percent compared with 15.1 percent for Democratic districts.
The margin of defeat was greater, on average, in districts represented by Democrats, where 62.8 percent of voters voted "no" compared with an average of 54.9 percent in Republican-held districts.
The Democratic Party opposed the ballot measure, spending an estimated $35,000 to help defeat it, said county Democratic chairman Jay Jacobs.
Polling told the party that seniors were opposed in principle to publicly financing a sports facility on behalf of Islanders owner Charles Wang, Jacobs said. From Thursday through Monday, the party auto-dialed 120,000 households containing people ages 55 and older and 50,000 households it had targeted to encourage opponents of the plan to vote.
The party also put up 8,000 "vote no" signs around the county, dropped off more than 100,000 pieces of literature at homes and sent hundreds of thousands of emails. Jacobs said the message was: "If you want to stop your property taxes from going up, vote 'no.' "
Jacobs said that while the party believed Mangano's plan was fiscally imprudent, it didn't decide to work to defeat it until Deputy County Executive of Finance Tim Sullivan said the layoffs of 128 county workers would free up funds to pay for the referendum, estimated to cost $2 million.
Mangano said the referendum "was time and money well spent; not only did we hear from the public, this concept brought to the forefront other proposals that could potentially keep the Islanders here and create a sports entertainment destination or build something else there."
John Durso, president of the Long Island Federation of Labor, who supported the project, blamed the defeat on politics. "The Coliseum was a victim of political football," Durso said. "When the Democrats were in power, the Republicans hated it. [Now] Republicans are in power, [so] the Democrats hate it."