Voters cast ballots at the Copiague Fire House on Dixon...

Voters cast ballots at the Copiague Fire House on Dixon Street on Nov. 8. Credit: Tom Lambui

Democratic turnout on Long Island in the 2022 elections declined by 7.8%, while Republican turnout rose 5.7% compared with 2018, a shift that helped Republican candidates overcome Democrats' significant advantage in voter enrollment, party officials and political experts said.

Democratic turnout in Nassau was 51.25% in the Nov. 8 elections, compared with 57.8% in 2018, the most recent year with a race for governor and a congressional midterm cycle, Nassau County Board of Elections records show.

Turnout among Nassau Republicans jumped from 57.6% in 2018 to 64.63% this year.

In Suffolk, turnout among Democrats dropped from 60.6% in 2018 to 51.4% on Nov. 8, according to unofficial returns from the county Board of Elections.

Turnout among Suffolk Republicans hit 66.3% this year, compared with 62% in 2018.

Better turnout on the Republican side helped the party overcome steep deficits in enrollment, experts said.

There are 90,768 more registered Democrats in Nassau than Republicans; in Suffolk, there are 35,020 more Democrats than Republicans, according to state Board of Elections tallies.

Meena Bose, executive dean for public policy and public service programs at Hofstra University, told Newsday, "Republican voters on Long Island were motivated and unified, and present. And Democratic voters, I think, demonstrated the opposite."

Others suggested that voters not enrolled in any political party — known as "blanks" — broke more heavily for Republicans this year than in the past, and that many moderate Democrats also voted Republican.

In Nassau, there were 254,987 unaffiliated voters this year, and in Suffolk there were 290,058, according to the county boards of election.

Turnout among the group was 42% in Nassau and 43% in Suffolk, nearly the same rates as in 2018.

"In order to get the numbers that they [Republican candidates] got here on Long Island … it had to be that the unaffiliated, the blanks, broke in favor of the Republicans this year," Jay Jacobs, the Nassau and state Democratic chairman, told Newsday.

Also, Jacobs said, "there are moderate Democrats who unfortunately buy into the argument that the Republicans have been banging away at — that their party believes in 'defund the police,' their party supports socialists, their party is opposed to Israel, their party is soft on crime, and is the reason for the increase in crime. And all of it is untrue."

In Nassau, for instance, Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, a congressman from Shirley, got 285,720 votes to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul's 231,592.

According to the Nassau County Board of Elections, 198,847 Democrats, 192,098 Republicans and 106,280 unaffiliated voters turned out.

In Suffolk, Zeldin beat Hochul, 323,960 votes to 228,532.

According to unofficial figures from the Suffolk BOE, 214,675 Republicans, 184,586 Democrats and 124,644 "blanks" turned out.

Zeldin lost to Hochul statewide.

Experts and political party officials said skillful ground games of the Nassau and Suffolk Republican committees, along with Zeldin's popularity on Long Island, helped down-ballot GOP candidates.

Republicans won all three open House seats in Nassau and Suffolk, including two that flipped from Democratic to Republican in Nassau, contributing to Democrats' overall loss of control in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) also won reelection in the 2nd Congressional District.

Former Republican Rep. Peter King of Seaford credited GOP candidates for sticking to a disciplined message focused on crime and inflation, and distancing themselves from former Republican President Donald Trump.

“We were not attached to Trump,” King told Newsday. "I think once you get hit with Trump, that's a tough thing to overcome.”

Overall, King said, "the candidates we had, focused on the issues, and on themselves. They weren't running around yelling about [President Joe] Biden, they weren't talking about Trump at all, they weren't talking about elections being stolen."

King continued: "Their face and their record was out there. And they made it about them, rather than get tied into national issues." 

Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Cairo noted that the entire statewide Democratic ticket — Hochul, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, and Attorney General Letitia James — lost in Nassau County, although they all won statewide.

"Every other statewide candidate, Republican, carried Nassau County," Cairo told Newsday. "That's remarkable, isn't it. Why? Because of the issues. Party affiliation, certainly in Nassau, was not a consideration."

Suffolk GOP chairman Jesse Garcia said he sought to boost the fortunes of the party's candidates this year by talking up the achievements of local Republican governments.

"I utilize the town Republican leadership and supervisorships, like in Brookhaven, Islip, Smithtown, Huntington, Riverhead, as examples to voters of getting things done," Garcia told Newsday.

"I'm able to juxtapose that against Democratic policies, and it gives me a head start to demonstrate to those voters who left [the GOP] for one reason or another … we have the record of accomplishing what we do here in our Republican government."

Former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat who lost to Republican Bruce Blakeman last year, said Democratic candidates faced headwinds due to new bail reform laws that ended cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

The Democratic-controlled State Legislature passed the measure in 2019.

In September, a report by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services showed criminal suspects were being rearrested at roughly the same rate as they were before the overhaul of the bail law was enacted.

Also, the report said bail reform law hadn’t sparked a rash of no-shows at required court appearances, as some had feared.

Nonetheless, Curran told Newsday, “I think there is a visceral feeling about the bail reform — and you can parse the facts, and nuance and the data — but at the end of the day people feel that it’s bad, and the Republicans are relentless and disciplined in their messaging about it."

Curran, who hosts a politics podcast on WABC radio, argued "we had good sensible Democratic candidates running for Congress in Nassau and unfortunately, they lost races they should've won because of this message that was number one, executed so effectively, but number two, they feel in their gut that it’s right."

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who will retire from his 3rd District seat at the end of December, said Democratic candidates “have to recognize the fact that people are concerned about public safety. We have to address that. We cannot ignore that concern."

He continued: “Democrats can address public safety consistent with their Democratic principles, and putting a premium on equity and justice. But they cannot say it’s not a problem, because people are concerned there’s a problem. … We saw that not only in the elections we had on [Nov. 8], but last year as well. This is just the reality of the situation."

Said Jacobs: "When what's going on in politics is not the most important thing in your day-to-day life, and you're not paying that much attention, if enough money is spent, on that kind of disingenuous campaign messaging, some of it's going to have an effect."

Curran said “Democrats can absolutely right the ship" in future elections.

“We have an enrollment advantage; we just have to be where people are," she said.

"Don’t write the obituary for the Democratic Party on Long Island just yet," Curran said. "We have a big election in 2024, a [U.S.] Senate seat and a presidential year, and I'm predicting the Democrats are going to come out really strong on Long Island that year."

Democratic turnout on Long Island in the 2022 elections declined by 7.8%, while Republican turnout rose 5.7% compared with 2018, a shift that helped Republican candidates overcome Democrats' significant advantage in voter enrollment, party officials and political experts said.

Democratic turnout in Nassau was 51.25% in the Nov. 8 elections, compared with 57.8% in 2018, the most recent year with a race for governor and a congressional midterm cycle, Nassau County Board of Elections records show.

Turnout among Nassau Republicans jumped from 57.6% in 2018 to 64.63% this year.

In Suffolk, turnout among Democrats dropped from 60.6% in 2018 to 51.4% on Nov. 8, according to unofficial returns from the county Board of Elections.

WHAT TO KNOW

  • Democratic turnout in Nassau and Suffolk Counties on Nov. 8 dropped by 7.8%, while Republican turnout rose 5.7% compared with 2018, according to unofficial returns.
  • The shift that helped Republican candidates overcome Democrats' significant advantage in voter enrollment, party officials and political experts said.
  • Democratic turnout in Nassau was 51.25% compared with 57.8% in 2018, while GOP turnout jumped from 57.6% in 2018 to 64.63% this year. In Suffolk, 51.4% of Democrats voted, compared with 60.6% in 2018. GOP turnout hit 66.3%, compared with 62% in 2018.

Turnout among Suffolk Republicans hit 66.3% this year, compared with 62% in 2018.

Better turnout on the Republican side helped the party overcome steep deficits in enrollment, experts said.

There are 90,768 more registered Democrats in Nassau than Republicans; in Suffolk, there are 35,020 more Democrats than Republicans, according to state Board of Elections tallies.

Meena Bose, executive dean for public policy and public service programs at Hofstra University, told Newsday, "Republican voters on Long Island were motivated and unified, and present. And Democratic voters, I think, demonstrated the opposite."

Influence of unaffiliated voters

Others suggested that voters not enrolled in any political party — known as "blanks" — broke more heavily for Republicans this year than in the past, and that many moderate Democrats also voted Republican.

In Nassau, there were 254,987 unaffiliated voters this year, and in Suffolk there were 290,058, according to the county boards of election.

Turnout among the group was 42% in Nassau and 43% in Suffolk, nearly the same rates as in 2018.

"In order to get the numbers that they [Republican candidates] got here on Long Island … it had to be that the unaffiliated, the blanks, broke in favor of the Republicans this year," Jay Jacobs, the Nassau and state Democratic chairman, told Newsday.

Also, Jacobs said, "there are moderate Democrats who unfortunately buy into the argument that the Republicans have been banging away at — that their party believes in 'defund the police,' their party supports socialists, their party is opposed to Israel, their party is soft on crime, and is the reason for the increase in crime. And all of it is untrue."

In Nassau, for instance, Republican gubernatorial candidate Lee Zeldin, a congressman from Shirley, got 285,720 votes to Democratic Gov. Kathy Hochul's 231,592.

According to the Nassau County Board of Elections, 198,847 Democrats, 192,098 Republicans and 106,280 unaffiliated voters turned out.

In Suffolk, Zeldin beat Hochul, 323,960 votes to 228,532.

According to unofficial figures from the Suffolk BOE, 214,675 Republicans, 184,586 Democrats and 124,644 "blanks" turned out.

Zeldin lost to Hochul statewide.

Experts: GOP ground game made a difference

Experts and political party officials said skillful ground games of the Nassau and Suffolk Republican committees, along with Zeldin's popularity on Long Island, helped down-ballot GOP candidates.

Republicans won all three open House seats in Nassau and Suffolk, including two that flipped from Democratic to Republican in Nassau, contributing to Democrats' overall loss of control in the House of Representatives.

Rep. Andrew Garbarino (R-Bayport) also won reelection in the 2nd Congressional District.

Former Republican Rep. Peter King of Seaford credited GOP candidates for sticking to a disciplined message focused on crime and inflation, and distancing themselves from former Republican President Donald Trump.

“We were not attached to Trump,” King told Newsday. "I think once you get hit with Trump, that's a tough thing to overcome.”

Overall, King said, "the candidates we had, focused on the issues, and on themselves. They weren't running around yelling about [President Joe] Biden, they weren't talking about Trump at all, they weren't talking about elections being stolen."

King continued: "Their face and their record was out there. And they made it about them, rather than get tied into national issues." 

Nassau GOP chairman Joseph Cairo noted that the entire statewide Democratic ticket — Hochul, Sen. Chuck Schumer, Comptroller Thomas DiNapoli, and Attorney General Letitia James — lost in Nassau County, although they all won statewide.

"Every other statewide candidate, Republican, carried Nassau County," Cairo told Newsday. "That's remarkable, isn't it. Why? Because of the issues. Party affiliation, certainly in Nassau, was not a consideration."

Suffolk GOP chairman Jesse Garcia said he sought to boost the fortunes of the party's candidates this year by talking up the achievements of local Republican governments.

"I utilize the town Republican leadership and supervisorships, like in Brookhaven, Islip, Smithtown, Huntington, Riverhead, as examples to voters of getting things done," Garcia told Newsday.

"I'm able to juxtapose that against Democratic policies, and it gives me a head start to demonstrate to those voters who left [the GOP] for one reason or another … we have the record of accomplishing what we do here in our Republican government."

Democrats parse the results

Former Nassau County Executive Laura Curran, a Democrat who lost to Republican Bruce Blakeman last year, said Democratic candidates faced headwinds due to new bail reform laws that ended cash bail for most misdemeanors and nonviolent felonies.

The Democratic-controlled State Legislature passed the measure in 2019.

In September, a report by the state Division of Criminal Justice Services showed criminal suspects were being rearrested at roughly the same rate as they were before the overhaul of the bail law was enacted.

Also, the report said bail reform law hadn’t sparked a rash of no-shows at required court appearances, as some had feared.

Nonetheless, Curran told Newsday, “I think there is a visceral feeling about the bail reform — and you can parse the facts, and nuance and the data — but at the end of the day people feel that it’s bad, and the Republicans are relentless and disciplined in their messaging about it."

Curran, who hosts a politics podcast on WABC radio, argued "we had good sensible Democratic candidates running for Congress in Nassau and unfortunately, they lost races they should've won because of this message that was number one, executed so effectively, but number two, they feel in their gut that it’s right."

Rep. Thomas Suozzi (D-Glen Cove), who will retire from his 3rd District seat at the end of December, said Democratic candidates “have to recognize the fact that people are concerned about public safety. We have to address that. We cannot ignore that concern."

He continued: “Democrats can address public safety consistent with their Democratic principles, and putting a premium on equity and justice. But they cannot say it’s not a problem, because people are concerned there’s a problem. … We saw that not only in the elections we had on [Nov. 8], but last year as well. This is just the reality of the situation."

Said Jacobs: "When what's going on in politics is not the most important thing in your day-to-day life, and you're not paying that much attention, if enough money is spent, on that kind of disingenuous campaign messaging, some of it's going to have an effect."

Curran said “Democrats can absolutely right the ship" in future elections.

“We have an enrollment advantage; we just have to be where people are," she said.

"Don’t write the obituary for the Democratic Party on Long Island just yet," Curran said. "We have a big election in 2024, a [U.S.] Senate seat and a presidential year, and I'm predicting the Democrats are going to come out really strong on Long Island that year."