In November of 2013, the Board of Elections posed a ballot question to New York voters about allowing new casinos in the state, a question that ‘deeply troubled’ the New York Public Interest Research Group because of its ‘trespass into advocacy.’
The distortionary question had the desired effect, and now the people of Schenectady are in a position of potentially having a casino sited in their community when they clearly voted against it.
Using voting data from all 120 election districts and the six municipalities in Schenectady County, we can discern the sentiment of the people. For complete election results in the county see: schenectadyplaygrounds.blogspot.com.
In the town of Niskayuna, every single one of its 20 election districts — the majority of which are as equidistant from ALCO as city election districts — voted against increasing the regressivity of tax collections by building a casino.
The no vote overwhelmed the pro-gamblers by a margin of 25.7 percent.
The good people in the town of Princetown had the highest turnout in all of Schenectady County at 56.7 percent. Residents in both of their election districts voted against allowing more casinos. The margin of decisiveness was 14.1 percent, while the percent undecided or the undervote was 6.8 percent.
The strict definition of an undervote is when a voter did not mark a choice about either a candidate or a proposition. In this case, it can happen when voters do not turn over their ballots. Researchers have also explained that it arises from multiple reasons, from being undecided about an issue, the lack of quality education, the method of voting and the wording of referenda questions.
Forty-seven percent of Duanesburg’s 4,328 voters came out to vote in November. All five of the community's election districts voted against the casino, and 54.4 percent of the people in Duanesburg voted against casinos. The margin of decisiveness was 13.3 percent, while the undervote was only 4.5 percent.
Forty-one percent of Glenville’s 20,009 voters turned out in November. These people live closer to the proposed casino in downtown Schenectady than do many people in the city of Schenectady. They voted strongly against having a new casino built for their community. The people opposed to more gambling garnered 55.3 percent of the vote, while the pro-gamblers received 15.7 percent less of the vote. Even more decisively, 25 of the 27 election districts, or 92.6 percent, voted against the casino.
The decisiveness of the electorate in the town of Rotterdam is not as clear as the previous four municipalities. Seventeen of the 24 election districts voted for the casino, but only 14 of the election districts had conclusive decisions. In aggregate, people who supported increased gambling won by 6.7 percent, but the undecided were 7.6 percent.
People who voted at the Rotterdam Senior Center and the Town Hall were the strongest supporters of expanded gambling, while the other neighborhoods had mixed results; some voted against, while others were not conclusive. On the whole, the only conclusion we can draw is that the vote in Rotterdam was suggestive of moderate support for a new casino.
The city of Schenectady has the most muddled results of all the municipalities in the county. Only 7,723 voters, or 25.8 percent of the electorate, turned out to vote. This dismal turnout ranged by election district from 12.2 percent to 38 percent. On the whole, it was the lowest turnout in the county. The undervote was highest in the city.
Election district undervotes ranged from 3.7 percent to 48.3 percent. As a city, people who supported a new casinos upstate won by 2.3 percent, but the undervote was five times higher, at 10.3 percent
People living around Schenectady High School and in the Stockade were conclusively against more casinos, while people in Mount Pleasant and Belleview supported new casinos. Other neighborhoods were only suggestively for or against because not all of the election districts voted the same. In some, the undervote was larger than the margin of decisiveness.
For the city as a whole, no clear conclusions can be made about the opinion of the people. Any statements with certainty about the will of the people would be a distortion of the people’s vote.
What we can say with certainty is that the majority of the people that would be most impacted by a new casino in downtown Schenectady expressed clear opposition to more gambling facilities for their families and communities.
People opposed to more gambling were 50.6 percent of the vote in the county, while the people supporting more gambling opportunities lost by a margin of 7.9 percent. The undervote was 6.6 percent, so the countywide decision against additional casinos was conclusive.
Additionally, 72 of the 120 election districts, or 60 percent, voted against more gambling for their families and communities. The people have spoken, and the answer is no casino.
The government of the people, by the people, and for the people shall not perish from this Earth, except perhaps in Schenectady. It is up to the local legislatures to decide if they respect the will of the people.
Thomas Hodgkins lives in Schenectady. The Gazette encourages readers to submit local material to the Sunday Opinion section. Contact Editorial Page Editor Mark Mahoney at firstname.lastname@example.org.