A surge of 31,000 Long Islanders registered to vote ahead of Tuesday’s presidential primaries, driven by New York’s competitive presidential primary and the candidacies of Republican Donald Trump and Democrat Bernie Sanders, officials and political experts said.
In Suffolk, 16,420 new voters registered in the first three months of 2016, including 6,686 Democrats and 4,110 Republicans. More than 7,000 of the Democrats and Republicans registered in March. The deadline for new voters to register and participate in Tuesday’s primary was March 25.
In Nassau, 14,962 new voters registered, including 6,861 Democrats and 3,654 Republicans. Nearly 6,800 Democrats and Republicans signed up in March, county board of election records show.
Registrations for the first three months of 2016 beat the total for the period in presidential primaries in 2012 and 2008.
In 2012, 16,981 new voters registered on Long Island in the three months before the April primaries. In January 2008, the month before that year’s presidential primary, 9,738 new voters registered on Long Island. Data for 2007 was not available.
“This is the most energized and enthusiastic I’ve seen the party in decades,” said Nassau Republican Party chairman Joseph Mondello, who attributed the enrollment surge to excitement about Trump, the GOP front-runner.
“Young people, and those who have not been involved in politics before are out there registering for the first time,” Mondello said.
Suffolk Democratic chairman Richard Schaffer said the 2016 New York primaries were the first in memory that mattered in selecting presidential nominees. Schaffer said young voters on the Democratic side were excited about Sanders, and that Trump has reached out to people who felt disenfranchised and had never participated in the system.
“People want to engage in the process because they feel there are choices,” Schaffer said.
Suffolk Republican chairman John Jay LaValle said the new registrants “are indicative of the excitement Donald Trump has brought. There’s evidence he’s waking up the average voter.”
Nassau Democratic Party chairman Jay Jacobs, a supporter of Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton, said there is not enough data to attribute Nassau’s registration spike to Sanders, who lost the New York primary to Clinton by a margin of 58 percent to 42 percent.
“There’s a lot of interest and enthusiasm in the presidential race and people vote for many different reasons,” said Jacobs.
Schaffer predicted the new voters will stay engaged through November. Afterward, “we’re going to show them how local government is relevant to their lives and by involving them and promoting younger people to run as candidates,” he said.
LaValle said the party had to restore the public’s faith in government. That includes stopping cross-endorsement deals between candidates and reforming ethics and election laws.
Michael Dawidziak, a Bohemia-based political consultant who works primarily for Republicans, said it will be difficult to sustain the enthusiasm for local elections.
“It was a moment in history,” Dawidziak said of the increased interest this year in New York. “They’ll have a tough time keeping them engaged in local elections.”
With Rick Brand