New York Voting History - History

New York Voting History - History

1828270,975Andrew Jackson139,41251.4John Q Adams131,56348.6
1832323,393Andrew Jackson168,49752.1Henry Clay154,89647.9
1836305,343Martin Van Buren166,79554.6William Harrison138,54845.4
1840441,543William Harrison226,00151.2Martin VaN Buren212,73348.2
1844485,882James Polk237,58848.9Henry Clay232,48247.8
1848455,944Zachary Taylor218,58347.9Lewis Cass114,31925.1
1852522,294Frankilin Pierce262,08350.2Winfield Scott234,88245
1856596,486James Buchann195,87832.8John Fremont276,00446.3
1860675,156Abraham Lincoln362,64653.7Stephen Douglas312,51046.3
1864730,721Abraham Lincoln368,73550.5George McClelan361,98649.5
1868849,771Ulysses Grant419,88849.4Horatio Seymour429,88350.6
1872828,020Ulysses Grant440,73853.2Horace Greeley387,28246.8
18761,015,503Rutherford Hayes489,20748.2Samuel Tilden521,94951.4
18801,103,945James Garfield555,54450.3Winfield Scott534,51148.4
18841,167,003Grover Cleveland563,04848.2James Blaine562,00148.2
18881,319,748Benjamin Harrison650,33849.3Grover Cleveland635,96548.2
18921,336,793Grover Cleveland654,86849Benjamin Harrison609,35045.6
18961,423,876William McKinley819,83857.6William Bryant551,36938.7
19001,548,043William McKinley822,01353.1William Bryant678,46243.8
19041,617,765Theo. Roosevelt859,53353.1Alton Parker683,98142.3
19081,638,350William Taft870,07053.1William Bryant667,46840.7
19121,588,315Woodrow Wilson655,57341.3Theo. Roosevelt390,09324.6
19161,706,305Woodrow Wilson759,42644.5Charles Hughes879,23851.5
19202,898,513Warren Harding1,871,16764.6James Cox781,23827
19243,263,939Calvin Coolidge1,820,05855.8John Davis950,79629.1
19284,405,626Herbert Hoover2,193,34449.8Alfred Smith2,089,86347.4
19324,405,626Franklin Roosevelt2,193,34449.8Herbert Hoover2,089,86347.4
19365,596,398Franklin Roosevelt3,293,22258.8Alfred Landon2,180,67039
19406,301,596Franklin Roosevelt3,251,91851.6Wendell Will3,027,47848
19446,316,790Franklin Roosevelt3,304,23852.3Thomas Dewey2,987,64747.3
19486,177,337Harry Truman2,780,20445Thomas Dewey2,841,16346
19527,128,239Dwight Eisenhower3,952,81355.5Adlai Stevenson3,104,60143.6
19567,095,971Dwight Eisenhower4,345,50661.2Adlai Stevenson2,747,94438.7
19607,291,079John F Kennedy3,830,08552.5Richard Nixon3,446,41947.3
19647,166,275Lyndon Johnson4,913,10268.6Barry Goldwater2,243,55931.3
19686,791,688Richard Nixon3,007,93244.3Hubert Humphrey3,378,47049.7
19727,165,919Richard Nixon4,192,77858.5George McGovern2,951,08441.2
19766,534,170Jimmy Carter3,389,55851.9Gerald Ford3,100,79147.5
19806,201,959Ronald Reagan2,893,83146.7Jimmy Carter2,728,37244
19846,806,810Ronald Reagan3,664,76353.8Walter Mondale3,119,60945.8
19886,485,683George Bush3,081,87147.5Michael Dukais3,347,88251.6
19926,926,925Bill Clinton3,444,45049.7George Bush2,346,64933.9
19965,859,936William Clint3,513,19159.95Bob Dole1,861,19831.76%
20006,821,999George W Bush2,403,37435.2Al Gore4,107,69760.2
20047,391,036George W Bush2,962,56740.1John Kerry4,314,28058.4
20087,572,597Barack Obama4,769,70063.0%John McCain2,742,29836.2%

Voting Rights: A Short History

Challenges to voting rights in this country, like the ones we've seen recently, are hardly a 21st-century invention. Entrenched groups have long tried to keep the vote out of the hands of the less powerful. Indeed, America began its great democratic experiment in the late 1700s by granting the right to vote to a narrow subset of society — white male landowners. Even as barriers to voting began receding in the ensuing decades, many Southern states erected new ones, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, aimed at keeping the vote out of the hands of African American men.

Over time, voting rights became a bipartisan priority as people worked at all levels to enact constitutional amendments and laws expanding access to the vote based on race and ethnicity, gender, disability, age and other factors. The landmark Voting Rights Act of 1965 passed by Congress took major steps to curtail voter suppression. Thus began a new era of push-and-pull on voting rights, with the voting age reduced to 18 from 21 and the enshrinement of voting protections for language minorities and people with disabilities.

Greater voter enfranchisement was met with fresh resistance and in 2013, the Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act in its ruling on Shelby County v. Holder, paving the way for states and jurisdictions with a history of voter suppression to enact restrictive voter identification laws. A whopping 23 states created new obstacles to voting in the decade leading up to the 2018 elections, according to the nonpartisan coalition Election Protection.

These activities have a demonstrable and disproportionate effect on populations that are already underrepresented at the polls. Adding to the problems, government at all levels has largely failed to make the necessary investments in elections (from technology to poll-worker training) to ensure the integrity and efficiency of the system.

1700s: Voting generally limited to white property holders

Despite their belief in the virtues of democracy, the founders of the United States accepted and endorsed severe limits on voting. The U.S. Constitution originally left it to states to determine who is qualified to vote in elections. For decades, state legislatures generally restricted voting to white males who owned property. Some states also employed religious tests to ensure that only Christian men could vote.

1800s: Official barriers to voting start to recede

During the early part of the 19 th century, state legislatures begin to limit the property requirement for voting. Later, during the Reconstruction period following the Civil War, Congress passed the Fifteenth Amendment to the Constitution, which ensured that people could not be denied the right to vote because of their race. The amendment was ratified by the states in 1870. However, in the decades that followed, many states, particularly in the South, used a range of barriers, such as poll taxes and literacy tests, to deliberately reduce voting among African American men.

1920: Women win the vote

Activists stand at a women's suffrage information booth in New York City encouraging people to vote "yes" for women's voting rights in 1914. (Credit: Bettmann Archive via Getty Images)

Early in the 20th century, women still were only able to vote in a handful of states. After decades of organizing and activism, women nationwide won the right to vote with the ratification of the 19th amendment to the U.S. Constitution in 1920.

1960: Southern states ramp up barriers to voting

The struggle for equal voting rights came to a head in the 1960s as many states, particularly in the South, dug in on policies—such as literacy tests, poll taxes, English-language requirements, and more—aimed at suppressing the vote among people of color, immigrants and low-income populations. In March 1965, activists organized protest marches from Selma, Alabama, to the state capital of Montgomery to spotlight the issue of black voting rights. The first march was brutally attacked by police and others on a day that came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.” After a second march was cut short, a throng of thousands finally made the journey, arriving in Montgomery on March 24 and drawing nationwide attention to the issue.

1964: The 24th amendment targets poll taxes

Poll taxes were a particularly egregious form of voter suppression for a century following the Civil War, forcing people to pay money in order to vote. Payment of the tax was a prerequisite for voter registration in many states. The taxes were expressly designed to keep African Americans and low-income white people from voting. Some states even enacted grandfather clauses to allow many higher-income white people to avoid paying the tax. The 24th amendment was approved by Congress in 1962 and ratified by the states two years later. In a 1966 case, the Supreme Court ruled that poll taxes are unconstitutional in any U.S. election.

1965: The Voting Rights Act passes Congress

Inspired by voting rights marches in Alabama in spring 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act. The vote was decisive and bipartisan: 79-18 in the Senate and 328-74 in the House. President Lyndon Johnson signed the measure on August 6 with Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr., Rosa Parks, and other icons of the civil rights movement at his side. In addition to barring many of the policies and practices that states had been using to limit voting among African Americans and other targeted groups, the Voting Rights Act included provisions that required states and local jurisdictions with a historical pattern of suppressing voting rights based on race to submit changes in their election laws to the U.S. Justice Department for approval (or “preclearance”). In the ensuing decades, the preclearance provisions proved to be a remarkably effective means of discouraging state and local officials from erecting new barriers to voting, stopping the most egregious policies from going forward, and providing communities and civil rights advocates with advance notice of proposed changes that might suppress the vote.

1971: Young people win the vote

For much of the nation’s history, states generally restricted voting to people age 21 and older. But during the 1960s, the movement to lower the voting age gained steam with the rise of student activism and the war in Vietnam, which was fought largely by young, 18-and-over draftees. The 26 th amendment prohibited states and the federal government from using age as a reason to deny the vote to anyone 18 years of age and over.

1975: Voting Rights Act expanded to protect language minorities

Congress added new provisions to the Voting Rights Act to protect members of language minority groups. The amendments required jurisdictions with significant numbers of voters who have limited or no proficiency in English to provide voting materials in other languages and to provide multilingual assistance at the polls.

1982: Congress requires new voting protections for people with disabilities

Congress passed a law extending the Voting Rights Act for another 25 years. As part of the extension, Congress required states to take steps to make voting more accessible for the elderly and people with disabilities.

1993: “Motor Voter” becomes law

Responding to historically low rates of voter registration, Congress passed the National Voter Registration Act. Also known as “motor voter,” the law required states to allow citizens to register to vote when they applied for their drivers’ licenses. The law also required states to offer mail-in registration and to allow people to register to vote at offices offering public assistance. In the first year of its implementation, more than 30 million people completed their voter registration applications or updated their registration through means made available because of the law.

2000: Election problems spotlight need for reform

The extremely close Bush-Gore Presidential race led to a recount in the state of Florida that highlighted many of the problems plaguing U.S. elections, from faulty equipment and bad ballot design to inconsistent rules and procedures across local jurisdictions and states. The U.S. Supreme Court ultimately intervened to stop the Florida recount and effectively ensuring the election of George W. Bush.

2002: Congress passes the Help America Vote Act

With memories of the problems of the 2000 election still fresh in everyone’s mind, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act in 2002 with the goal of streamlining election procedures across the nation. The law placed new mandates on states and localities to replace outdated voting equipment, create statewide voter registration lists, and provide provisional ballots to ensure that eligible voters are not turned away if their names are not on the roll of registered voters. The law also was designed to make it easier for people with disabilities to cast private, independent ballots.

2010: Philanthropy embraces need for reform

Along with a core group of other funders, the Carnegie Corporation of New York began investing in voting rights and elections work in the United States in the 1970s and 1980s. However, it wasn’t until the early years of the 21 st century that funders started to work more intentionally together in their support for voting rights. A key vehicle for collective funder action on these issues is the State Infrastructure Fund (SIF), a collaborative fund administered by NEO Philanthropy. The fund was created in 2010 and has raised more than $56 million from an expanding list of funders to invest in advancing voting rights and expanding voting among historically underrepresented communities.

June 2013: The Supreme Court strikes a blow to the Voting Right Act

In its June ruling in the case, Shelby County v. Holder, the U.S. Supreme Court gutted the Voting Rights Act. Because of the Court’s decision, states and localities with a history of suppressing voting rights no longer were required to submit changes in their election laws to the U.S. Justice Department for review (or “preclearance”). The 5-4 decision ruled unconstitutional a section of the landmark 1965 law that was key to protecting voters in states and localities with a history of race-based voter suppression. In her dissent in the case, Justice Ruth Bader Ginsberg famously stated, “Throwing out preclearance when it has worked and is continuing to work to stop discriminatory changes is like throwing away your umbrella in a rainstorm because you are not getting wet.”

August 2013: States ramp up barriers to voting

On August 11, North Carolina’s governor signed a voter identification law seen by many as an attempt to suppress the votes of people of color. The North Carolina law was just one of many similar laws passed in the wake of the Supreme Court’s June 2013 Shelby ruling. Texas officials, in fact, acted on the same day of the Shelby decision to institute a strict voter identification law that previously had been blocked under Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act because of its impact in suppressing the vote of low-income people and racial minorities. After a lawsuit filed by civil rights groups and the U.S. Department of Justice, the North Carolina law was struck down by a federal judge who said it targeted African Americans with “almost surgical precision.” Officials in Alabama, Mississippi, Florida and Virginia shortly joined the ranks of those intent on exercising their newly won power to turn back the clock to an earlier time when election laws and practices in many places were marked by blatant discrimination and racism.

2014: The voting rights movement coalesces to fight suppression

In response to post-Shelby assaults on voting rights, voting rights organizations across the country stepped up their work to protect and advance the right to vote and move us closer to the vision of a nation of, by, and for the people. This work includes litigation to challenge unconstitutional barriers to voting, on-the-ground advocacy to advance pro-voter policies at the local and state levels, and nonpartisan efforts to register, educate and mobilize historically underrepresented populations so they can participate more actively in elections and civic life. The State Infrastructure Fund began convening a cohort of nonprofit public interest litigation groups with the aim of streamlining and coordinating the field’s response to a fresh wave of policies to suppress the vote. Coordinated by the Mexican American Legal Defense and Educational Fund (MALDEF), the collaborative of 12 organizations has played an essential role in pushing back against strict voter identification laws, racial gerrymandering, and other tactics aimed at reducing the voting rights of underrepresented populations.

2016: Presidential election and claims of fraud

After President Trump was elected despite losing the popular vote, he and his supporters made claims that large numbers of people voted illegally. A Washington Post analysis was able to find only four documented cases of voter fraud in the 2016 election out of 135 million ballots cast. The narrative about fraud ultimately resulted in President Trump convening the Presidential Commission on Election Integrity, which disbanded in January 2018 without presenting any evidence or findings. Continued false claims of rampant voter fraud have added fuel to the fire and prompted even bolder efforts to suppress the vote. Adding to the problems, government at all levels has largely failed to make the necessary investments in elections (from technology to poll worker training) to ensure the integrity and efficiency of the electoral system.

October 2018: State, local officials keep erecting new barriers to voting continue

A 2018 USAToday analysis found that election officials recently have closed thousands of polling places, with a disproportionate impact on communities of color. The polling place closures are just one example of how states and localities have continued to try to suppress the votes of targeted populations. In 2018, for example, the Georgia Senate passed bills cutting voting hours in Atlanta (where African Americans are 54 percent of the population) and restricting early voting on weekends. The latter measure was seen by many as a not-so-subtle attempt to target nonpartisan “Souls to the Polls” events organized by black churches to get their parishioners to vote on Sunday after church. Both Georgia measures were subsequently defeated in the state Assembly.

November 2018: Election draws record number of voters but problems remain

According to early estimates, 116 million voters—nearly half the eligible voting population (49.7 percent)—cast ballots in the 2018 elections. Not only did voter turnout set a 100-year record for midterm races, but the election saw record numbers of women and candidates of color running at all levels. In addition, voters approved a number of important state ballot measures aimed at expanding the electorate and making it easier to vote, including a law in Florida that lifts the permanent ban on voting for people with a felony criminal record. The numbers for 2018 were especially impressive given that many states continue to take aggressive steps to make it harder for people to vote. According to the nonpartisan coalition Election Protection, 23 states created new obstacles to voting in the decade preceding the 2018 election.

2019: Voting rights groups prepare for the 2020 Census and redistricting

In the same way that partisan interests and those in power have used voting rights laws and policies to suppress the vote, they also have attempted to use the U.S. Census and the subsequent congressional redistricting process to advance their political goals. The Trump administration, for example, fought unsuccessfully for two years to add a question to the 2020 census asking if someone is a citizen of the United States. Voting rights and civil rights groups said this was a transparent attempt to instill fear in immigrant communities, with the result of undercounting the immigrant population and reducing its political power and voice. Other concerns about the 2020 census include chronic underfunding for the work of accurately counting everyone in the nation. To the extent that the census cuts corners, there is a well-founded belief that it will result in an undercount of already underrepresented populations, including low-income populations and people of color.

For further background and how we can protect the right to vote, read our report, Voting Rights Under Fire


New York History Article Submission Guidelines

Since 1932, New York History (ISSN 0146-437x) has served as the foremost scholarly journal on the state’s past. New York History, now under the leadership of the Cornell University Press, and working closely with staff from the New York State Museum, seeks to unify the diverse field of New York State history and meet the needs of a growing historical community that includes scholars, public historians, museum professionals, local government historians, and those seeking an in-depth look at the Empire State’s history.

New York History strives to promote and interpret the state’s history through the publication of historical research and case studies dealing with New York State, as well as, its relationship to national and international events. New York History, published twice a year, presents articles dealing with every aspect of New York State history, and reviews of books, exhibitions, and media projects with a New York focus. The Editorial Board actively solicits articles, essays, reports from the field and case studies that support this mission.

Submitted articles should address, in an original fashion, some aspect of New York State history. Articles that deal with the history of other areas or with general American history must have a direct bearing on New York State history. It is assumed that the article will have some new, previously unexploited material to offer or will present new insights or new interpretations. Suggested length is 20-30 double spaced pages (or between 6,000 and 9,000 words), including footnotes . All submitted articles must include a 100-word abstract summarizing the article and providing keywords (no more than 10). Authors must submit articles electronically, with all text in Word and all tables, figures, and images in formats supported by Microsoft Windows. Provision of images in proper resolution (no less than 300 dpi at 5″ x 7″), securing requisite permissions, and the payment of any fees associated with images for articles are all the responsibility of the author. New York History employs, with some modification, footnote forms suggested in the Chicago Manual of Style.

In its review section, New York History assesses selected scholarly press publications with subject matter directly related to the history of New York State. The journal also reviews films and videos, digital and electronic media productions, exhibits, and performances. We do not accept unsolicited reviews, but we do welcome suggestions for material to review. If you are interested in becoming a reviewer, please contact us via email at [email protected]

All submissions can be sent directly to the journal’s editors at [email protected] The Editorial Board will process submissions as quickly as possible three to six months should be allowed for a thorough reading. New York History does not pay for author’s articles.


Fun Fact #3: Ohio Constitution “No Idiots” Clause

The table used at the 1802 Ohio Constitutional Convention. Illustration by Henry Howe (1891).

Ohio’s constitution prohibits “idiots” from voting. Article V, Section 6 of Ohio’s constitution states “No idiot, or insane person, shall be entitled to the privileges of an elector.” (Ratified: 1851)


The History of New York, Told Through Its Trash

A few years after I moved to New York, in 2016, a friend invited me to a gallery in Chelsea that was showing the original 16-mm. films of the late artist Gordon Matta-Clark. The most memorable piece of the night was a film called “Fresh Kill,” which narrates the death of an old truck. In the opening shot, the vehicle chugs down a marshy road walled in by reeds. Then a more industrial landscape appears: New York’s notorious landfill, Fresh Kills. We see endless trash-strewn fields, edged by giant machines colonies of seagulls standing guard under an elevated highway a factory resting along a large bay.

Eventually, the truck slams head first into the blade of an enormous bulldozer. The bulldozer flips the ruined car and presses it into the ground. Gasoline dribbles, then gushes, out of the tank. Like a bear with salmon, the bulldozer skewers, drags, and tears the truck, which is loaded with other trash onto a trailer, carried farther into the landfill, and interred. The final shots are of pools of water rimmed by garbage and plants, and hot piles of waste tossing off black smoke.

Fresh Kills opened in 1948. When Matta-Clark made the film, in 1972, it received roughly half of the solid waste in the city, and had long been the largest landfill in the world, eventually growing to about twenty-two hundred acres of trash. “Fresh Kills is a dramatic example of consumption gone wild,” the environmental historian Martin V. Melosi writes in his recent book “Fresh Kills: A History of Consuming and Discarding in New York City.” Melosi, an emeritus professor of history at the University of Houston, is the author of “Garbage in the Cities” and “The Sanitary City” you could call him a scholar of waste. His book, which arrives nearly twenty years after Fresh Kills’s closure, can be read as a companion to Matta-Clark’s film. The question, for both, isn’t just where our trash goes but how it shapes and reflects the world it comes from.

“New York City rarely had a day in its history without a waste problem,” Melosi writes. In the late sixteen-fifties, a law banned citizens from tossing “tubs of odor and nastiness” into the streets, but neglected to mention what, exactly, they were supposed to do with their trash. Organized street cleaning wouldn’t appear until about four decades later: in 1702, authorities instructed residents to make piles of dirt in front of their homes each Friday, to be removed by Saturday night. In the nineteenth century, New Yorkers “dumped their trash onto the streets in anticipation of its collection by scavengers,” the historian Catherine McNeur writes in “Taming Manhattan.” “Rotten food such as corn cobs, watermelon rinds, oyster shells and fish heads,” McNeur continues, “joined with dead cats, dogs, rats, and pigs, as well as enormous piles of manure, to create a stench particularly offensive in the heat of the summer.” The population of New York had exploded, as had the items available for consumption.

New York’s main modes of disposal, into the eighteen-nineties, were rendering plants, hog feeding, fill operations, and ocean dumping. Fill operations had the virtue—at least to developers—of creating new real estate in a city bounded by water. “By the nineteenth century,” Melosi writes, “water lots and marsh filling added 137 acres of land to Lower Manhattan.” Streets that once ran along the water—like Water Street, along the East River, or Greenwich Street, along the Hudson—now stand more than five hundred feet from the shore because of fill. But building out the shores also proved problematic, as the new coastline began to jut into shipping lanes. Ocean dumping, while easy and cheap, faced related problems. Not only did it obstruct waterways, defile beaches, and destroy New York’s once-abundant oyster beds, it reduced the depth of the deep-water harbor and threatened New York’s value as a port.

In the twentieth century, incineration became the great hope for the future of waste disposal. In 1919, Mayor John Hylan proposed that a fleet of incinerators be placed throughout the boroughs. When a judge ruled, in 1931, that New York City would need to end its ocean dumping—New Jersey had successfully sued the city over the trash blanketing its beaches—incineration became even more attractive. Consumerism was on the rise, and a flood of mass-produced goods made disposal a priority Melosi notes that, in the ten years after the First World War, the amount of solid waste the city produced rose by seventy per cent. But incinerators were expensive to repair and maintain, and the pollution they produced was particularly unpopular. The tides shifted slightly back in favor of landfills.

Enter Fresh Kills, which consists of a tidal inlet and salt marshes on the western coast of Staten Island. For many mid-century city planners, especially those in New York, any marshland was wasted space. When a landfill was proposed, a supportive Robert Moses argued that it would not only create real estate but eliminate an “unsanitary mosquito breeding swamp” and “provide additions to La Tourette and New Springville . . . Parks.” The dump at Fresh Kills, in Moses’s view, was a humane intervention.

But Moses didn’t see Fresh Kills as a long-term solution. “Fresh Kills’ place in the disposal plans of the city,” Melosi writes, wasn’t originally “defined primarily as a dumpsite but largely in terms of its role as a reclamation project and complement to incineration.” The city was still hanging its hopes on the promise of new, cleaner incineration technology, and Fresh Kills was marketed to Staten Island as a stopgap measure. No one guessed that it would remain open for more than half a century.

Strangely, it was the rise of the environmental movement, in the nineteen-sixties, that helped insure this longevity. The use of plastic, paper, and aluminum was increasing, and the best way to get rid of it seemed to be burying, instead of burning. While Fresh Kills was an environmental disaster, too—it produced methane gas, leaked millions of gallons of leachate into the groundwater, cluttered waterways with split trash, and exuded a miasma of foul odors—the opposition to incineration cemented the landfill’s vital role in the city’s trash system.

Landfilling is cheap, and when a fiscal crisis struck New York in the nineteen-seventies, the city only increased its reliance on Fresh Kills. Locals never wanted the landfill in their backyards, but for the many decades prior to the Verrazano-Narrows Bridge opening, in 1964, the population was small enough for politicians to ignore. In the nineteen-eighties, the population had grown, and anger over inaction began to brew on Staten Island. Locals hated the smell, and potentially infectious medical waste had been found on barges heading for the landfill. Residents felt their health was at stake and agitated throughout the eighties to have the site closed. Reforms were proposed, consent orders were issued, yet little changed. Fresh Kills remained open.

In 1993, after years of broken promises, the borough voted (roughly sixty-five per cent in favor) to secede from New York City. One major issue was Fresh Kills. The state blocked the secession, but it was difficult to ignore Staten Island’s burgeoning clout and growing population. In the nineties, a Republican triumvirate rode a wave of resentment into office, with much help from Staten Island. Soon, George Pataki was governor, Rudy Giuliani was mayor, and Guy Molinari was Staten Island’s borough president. Playing to their base, they made an agreement to close Fresh Kills by the end of 2001. The decision wasn’t about environmental concerns, and the Department of Sanitation was only alerted shortly before the announcement. “The closure,” Melosi writes, “was ultimately political.”

Giuliani’s solution was to increase the privatization and export of trash, an expensive tactic that raided the city’s coffers and required major cuts to recycling initiatives and social programs. By 1995, New York State was the largest exporter of waste in the country, sending it predominantly to Pennsylvania, as well as eleven other states. This is still the basic arrangement today, though Melosi shows that it’s only a temporary solution, especially as the city fails to meaningfully reduce its waste. (In each year from 2013 to 2017, New York produced more than thirty-two hundred tons of waste.) He recounts the plight, in the nineteen-eighties, of the Mobro 4000, a barge loaded with trash from Long Island and New York City that was rejected in ports all over the planet. Exporting, Melosi argues, runs into the same problem as most disposal methods: no one wants trash in their back yard. As such, Melosi finds, New York’s trash dumps and way stations tend to be built in poor and marginalized communities that lack the political power to fight their placement.

Fresh Kills closed on March 22, 2001, ahead of schedule. But history intervened, and the landfill was reopened on September 12th of that year to receive the wreckage of the World Trade Center. Human remains were scattered among pulverized concrete and twisted pieces of steel the marsh was now a landfill, a crime scene, and a cemetery as well. Yet Melosi renders the gruesome scene with a certain tenderness, chronicling the efforts of the sanitation workers who insisted on treating the grounds as hallowed, and the families who fought to claim the remains of their loved ones. It is the kind of sentiment that makes Melosi’s book important. It is neither a facile broadside about the dangers of consumption nor a simple morality tale it is a bold examination of the way society moves and is moved by its trash.

Near the beginning of “The Great Gatsby,” F. Scott Fitzgerald observes a “valley of ashes” seen out the window of a train travelling from Long Island into the city. When I first read this passage, I assumed it was a hallucinatory metaphor to describe a downtrodden neighborhood. What I didn’t know was that, in Fitzgerald’s time, ashes made up much of New York’s municipal waste. The author was simply describing the Corona Ash Dumps, in Queens, an expansive, constantly smoldering pile of cinder.

Trash makes for an expedient metaphor. For Fitzgerald, the dump represented a subjugated wasteland where nothing grew. For Melosi, waste reveals the still-unresolved dilemmas of unimpeded consumption. But landfills aren’t just a record of what society discarded, they’re a record of what a society considered trash. What constitutes our waste changes, and with it our understanding of the world.

Today, Fresh Kills is no longer a landfill. A more “abstract and theoretical” park, in Melosi’s words, is planned to take over the site, rebranded as the less-hostile “Freshkills.” If completed—it has been in the works since 2008—it will be larger than Central Park. Most of the area is closed to the public, but one can catch sight of it off of New York State Route 440, where enormous and bald hills, dotted with methane-exhaust pipes, loom over the highway. The brown, grassy hills, bordered by small dogwoods and tawny drooping phragmites, are not especially beautiful. Yet when you consider what is contained inside these hulking hills, you might stop to marvel. They are burial mounds, perverse feats of engineering, and, as Melosi writes, “archives of material and memories.” We typically experience trash only at the point of disposal. Here, near yet far, is its final resting place.


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A couple of days later, Adler&rsquos prayers were answered in the most unlikely fashion: She was asked to be an extra in the film &ldquoMaid in Manhattan,&rdquo starring Jennifer Lopez and Ralph Fiennes. In the scene, which ended up on the cutting room floor, Adler is seen asking the would-be senator Fiennes for an autograph.

skip - "Maid in Manhattan" trailer

Adler took this as a sign that New York was where she belonged.

Coming from a family that was &ldquoalways very vocal about standing up for your rights and helping other people,&rdquo Adler says the idea of service was ingrained in her from an early age. Religion, however, came later.

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&ldquoI wasn&rsquot brought up religious, I actually became religious in 2006,&rdquo she says. &ldquoSomeone had passed away that I was very close with, and it was very hard on me. I reached out to a local rabbi in my hometown.&rdquo

The rabbi recommended some readings about death and mourning for her, and Adler quickly found herself inspired by the Orthodox lifestyle, which she adopted.

She now resides in the Homecrest area of Southern Brooklyn with her sons, who she has full custody of after her divorce &ndash a long process she preferred not to discuss with Haaretz. Indeed, she declined to comment on her marital status at all.

Adler, who serves as chair of Brooklyn&rsquos Neighborhood Advisory Board 15, has been volunteering in her community for years. But as COVID-19 swept New York City last spring, she says she felt it was time to really &ldquostep up.&rdquo She distributed masks, meals and other supplies to people in need and essential workers &ndash always accompanied by her sons.

Her efforts didn&rsquot go unrecognized. As well as making multiple media headlines, New York City&rsquos Department of Youth and Community Development recently presented Adler with the &ldquo2020 Community Mom&rdquo award for her volunteering work.

While she gained attention for her activism, Adler reached the conclusion that running for office would allow her to &ldquoreally make a difference.&rdquo She threw her hat into the ring at the end of June.

Amber Adler advocating for children with special needs during a rally outside City Hall in 2019.

&lsquoMore representation&rsquo

Having worked on Councilman Deutsch&rsquos reelection campaign in 2017, Adler is familiar with the political horse race. But for her, the campaign is about &ldquogetting to know people one by one.&rdquo

Some of the issues Adler is campaigning on are things she sees as key for the city&rsquos recovery from the pandemic, including affordable housing, child care and health care.

But perhaps one of her top priorities is the fight against antisemitism and other forms of hatred, which she views as a &ldquotwo-part thing,&rdquo she says.

&ldquoThere is fighting hate, and then there is promoting unity,&rdquo she explains. &ldquoEveryone is going through the same challenges, so we can focus on a few common denominators and really do a lot of good.&rdquo

As part of her ongoing effort in the area, Adler helped secure some $170,000 from the city in 2019 for Holocaust Education in public schools.

Community activist Mark Appel, who founded the Bridge Multicultural and Advocacy Project, sees the race for Council District 48 as particularly important at this particular time. &ldquoYou need somebody in there to be able to balance, who has the ability to really communicate, who works with diversity,&rdquo he says.

Building bridges between community members of different backgrounds is essential, he notes. &ldquoYou have to bring in a coalition of Jews, Blacks, Muslims and other people to get something done [at City Hall],&rdquo he says. &ldquoYou can&rsquot make everything a Jewish issue.&rdquo

Jacob Kornbluh, national politics reporter for Jewish Insider and also a Brooklyn resident, says that city council elections are important in general because they allow the community to choose &ldquoa voice in the legislature to speak out for you, to offer constituent services and to bring back home funds for local organizations, institutions and the community.

&ldquoI think it&rsquos pretty obvious amid the rise in antisemitic violence, when progressive candidates are winning right and left, that the [Jewish] community feels that they need more representation,&rdquo he adds.

Amber Adler and her sons at a census rally in Foley Square, Lower Manhattan, during the pandemic.

A seat at City Hall is also a valuable political stepping stone. Many council members have run for higher positions after their term ended, like New York&rsquos current attorney general, Letitia James. More recently, Democratic Councilman Ritchie Torres won his congressional primary in New York&rsquos 15th district and is now set to be a House representative next year.

A men&rsquos club?

New York City Council elections will take place in November 2021, but the race has already made headlines. It was revealed last month that any candidates seeking endorsement from the local chapter of the Democratic Socialists of America &ndash a rising force in city politics &ndash were asked to pledge not to travel to Israel if elected, &ldquoin solidarity with Palestinians living under occupation.&rdquo

The question was harshly criticized by many lawmakers, who viewed it as counterproductive and offensive.

&ldquoIt was absurd, it was revolting,&rdquo says Adler, who joined others in condemning the request. &ldquoI am an identifiable Orthodox woman running for city council, and here there&rsquos an organization leveraging an endorsement based upon people who will stand against me on such a fundamental piece of me.&rdquo

Only one Orthodox woman, Susan Alter, has ever served on New York&rsquos city council &ndash she represented Brooklyn&rsquos Council District 32 from 1978 to 1993 &ndash and it&rsquos still rare to find American Haredi women becoming involved in politics.

Amber Adler and her sons bringing meals to the 61st Precinct in southern Brooklyn during the coronavirus crisis. Emes Photography

For Adler, running is also &ldquoabout bringing an accurate representation of all people to the council.&rdquo

But Appel isn&rsquot sure Adler being a woman will play in her favor.

&ldquoThe Orthodox coalition of political activists [in the district] are much more in support of men generally,&rdquo he observes. &ldquoIt&rsquos basically a men&rsquos club.&rdquo

Appel believes &ldquoit&rsquos going to be a complicated race&rdquo for Adler, especially since her opponents are &ldquowell-respected&rdquo in the community.

&ldquoOf course, when you run for city council, you have to raise a substantial amount of money and you have to get the support of the community,&rdquo he adds.

Adler, though, believes her potential constituents are &ldquodefinitely ready to elect a woman to city council,&rdquo and says she already has the support of &ldquomany community members, local pillars, rebbetzins and rabbonim.&rdquo

Having an Orthodox councilwoman, she argues, is also a great opportunity for them. &ldquoI have already begun networking and building relationships with other candidates for city council, and people want to work with me,&rdquo she says. &ldquoThat brings our district a lot of options and potential. This election is going to be the one for the history books!&rdquo she adds.

As she continues to campaign and volunteer, Adler&rsquos children remain close by. Whether she&rsquos distributing food or speaking out on the steps of City Hall for special education, they follow her. Last June, she also took them to a Brooklyn memorial rally for George Floyd, where they held signs reading &ldquoUnited for the Black community&rdquo and &ldquoJews in solidarity.&rdquo

&ldquoI just want my kids to be good people and to help others, to respect all people, to encourage others to do the same,&rdquo Adler reflects. &ldquoI think, for a lot of people, raising their kids to be compassionate humans that do better than they did &ndash that&rsquos a common goal.&rdquo


The Daily News Flash Newsletter

In 1821, New York still had a property requirement to vote for governor and state senators. Van Burenites demanded a convention to revise the constitution and open up suffrage. When they gathered in Albany, however, his men linked exclusion of Black men to universal suffrage for whites. Otherwise, one Bucktail leader from Delaware County charged, “a few hundred Negroes of the city of New York, following the train of those who ride in their coaches, and whose shoes and boots they had so often blacked,” meaning Federalists, “shall go to the polls of the election and change the political condition of the whole state.” Democrats quoted this speech for decades.


New York Voting History - History

Map of states and territories in which women vote

The admission of western territories as new states advanced the right of women to vote. These territories had less rigid social customs, and were anxious to acquire the number of voting residents needed to meet statehood requirements. In 1913 women voted in Wyoming, Idaho, Utah, and Colorado. Not until the ratification of the 19th Amendment in 1920 did women win the right to vote in the United States as a whole.

Courtesy Schlesinger Library, Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, Harvard University



Women practicing voting

A group of women in Chicago practice casting votes in a municipal election by means of a voting machine in 1913. The first year in which all American women could vote was 1920.

Courtesy League of Women Voters

Popular Science Monthly cover

By 1920 the gear-and-lever voting machine had become the official voting method in New York, Minnesota, California, Connecticut, Wisconsin, New Jersey, Indiana, Iowa, Michigan, Ohio, Utah, Colorado, Montana, Illinois, Washington, Massachusetts, and Kansas. The voting machine, pictured in Popular Science Monthly with a contemplative voter, became a symbol of good government and progressive reform.



Standard voting machine

This voting machine was patented by inventor Alfred J. Gillespie and manufactured by the Standard Voting Machine Company of Rochester, New York, in the late 1890s. It was the first to use a voter-activated mechanism that drew a privacy curtain around the voter and simultaneously unlocked the machine's levers for voting. In 1898, Gillespie and inventor Jacob Myers, whose patents informed Gillespie's work, organized a company that became Automatic Voting Machine Company. Myers gave the first demonstration of a voting machine in an 1892 Lockport, New York, town election.

Automatic Voting Machine brochure

From 1898 through the early 1960s, the gear-and-lever voting machine was promoted as an ideal voting technology. Though its internal mechanism changed over the years, the machine's "three steps to vote" never changed:

  • Pull the handle to close the curtains of the booth.
  • Turn the voting levers over the names of your chosen candidates to expose the Xs.
  • Pull the handle back to register your vote and reopen the curtains.



Instructional model voting machine

Models like this one acquainted voters with the operational features of the actual machine. This facsimile machine was last used in the 1944 presidential election between Franklin D. Roosevelt and Thomas E. Dewey.

Voting Machine booklet

The American Voting Machine Company's sales literature carried this idealized picture of the poll-going electorate in 1948.




Wendell Willkie novelty ballot

Republican Party sample ballot with movable levers, 1940

New Yorker magazine cover

In this New Yorker magazine cover from 1956, election officials tally votes registered on the counters visible on the back of a gear-and-lever voting machine. These machines were last manufactured in 1985 and remain in statewide use in Louisiana and New York. They are being phased out under the Help America Vote Act of 2002, which provides aid to states to acquire new voting equipment.




John F. Kennedy handbill

In the election of 1960, half of the estimated 65 million ballots were cast on gear-and-lever voting machines. This novelty handbill urges voters to pull the lever for Democratic presidential candidate John F. Kennedy.

Gear-and-lever poster

Poster used to familiarize voters with the gear-and-lever ballot format in Philadelphia, 1972




Ronald Reagan handbill

This sample ballot for presidential candidate Ronald Reagan was distributed to New York voters in 1980.


Donald Trump’s got a particularly strange voting history

The city is dominated by Democrats, and holds off-year elections for city offices. (You might remember that Bill de Blasio warded off Anthony Weiner back in 2013.) The state elections are lined up with off-year congressional contests, putting unusual emphasis on those years. Only the year before a presidential race is there nothing on the ballot, really, besides weird local races and Supreme Court balloting. But even with those overlapping schedules, New York has a relatively high frequency of people running uncontested, meaning that party primaries are only sporadic as well.

And then we introduce Donald Trump. In a weird political world, Trump's voting history probably stands out. Donald Trump first registered to vote at Trump Tower in 1987, a few years after the building was completed. Since then, according to The Smoking Gun, he's been a Republican three times, a Democrat once, a member of the Independence Party once and, for a brief period, had no party identification at all.

Curious about how often he actually voted, we reached out to New York-based political consulting firm Prime New York which has an updated list of voter behavior in the state. They provided The Post with Trump's history, back to his first registration. During that time, Trump voted in 18 of 28 general elections -- missing seven during the third-year races. He's voted in two of the 11 primaries he could have -- both of those in which he could have voted since 2010. He could have voted in two special elections, too, but didn't.

Since he rejoined the Republican Party just before the 2012 election, he hasn't missed a vote. (He rejoined the party right before the April primary, in which he presumably would have voted for Mitt Romney. But his registration was a bit too late to allow him to vote.)

The one takeaway Trump might offer the members of his party? He's been a much better Republican voter since 2001 than he was a Democratic one.


A Brief History of Ranked Choice Voting

This is cross-posted from This is Krist Novoselić, the blog of FairVote's Board of Directors Chair, Krist Novoselic.

Lawrence Lessig is trying to raise $1 million through crowdsourcing to run for president on a democratic reform platform. As of today, his effort is halfway towards the goal. One leg of his proposal is proportional representation for the US House based on FairVote’s latest plan. I have written in the previous post about how this system would work. This article is about the history of Ranked Choice Voting.

Ranked Choice Voting is not a new idea. It is constitutionally protected and has a long history in our nation. It has been more of a forgotten idea. But this is changing. The reform is reemerging as an alternative to the two round voting used in non-partisan municipal elections. It can also work with partisan elections where the results can mirror the primary / general election dynamic. Here is a very brief account of the history of Ranked Choice Voting. Most of the historical information in the article was taken from Kathleen L. Barber’s books - Proportional Representation & Electoral Reform in Ohio. &, A Right To Representation.

In the mid 19th century, the Industrial Revolution was transforming society in developed nations. Accordingly, the franchise of democracy was affected. There was a fear among elites that the growing middle class would, as a majority of voters, displace the establishment in government. In the early 1860's, the influential English thinker and member of Parliament John Stuart Mill found a way to accommodate majority rule while still give the minority a voice. He came across English barrister Thomas Hare’s pamphlet "On The Election Of Representatives, Parliamentary and Municipal."

In his treatise, Hare was advocating the Single Transferable Vote (STV). We call this Ranked Choice Voting today in our nation. STV also is referred to as Preferential Voting and Hare / Clark Method. The system can be called Instant Runoff Voting when used in single-seat elections and Choice Voting (PR/STV) when used with multi-seat proportional representation.

Australia and Ireland were early converts to the system and still use it to this day with national elections. In fact, Kathleen Barber says there is no tradition of party-list proportional representation in English speaking countries.

United States

In the post Civil War United States, the enfranchisement of black males and an influx of European immigrants threatened the balance of power. Again, the establishment was worried about class issues and the impact on suffrage.

Barber says the South Carolina legislature considered RCV to protect the interests of white minorities during Reconstruction. They settled instead on using the semi-proportional Cumulative Voting. After the military left the state, plurality voting came back. The simple barriers of literacy tests, poll taxes, intimidation and violence became the way to simply keep blacks out of power.

Between 1870 and 1900 more than 11 million European immigrants came to the US. Most of them settled in the cities of the Northeast and Midwest. Political parties met the needs of the new immigrants thus cultivating loyalty. These loyal voters were the base of powerful political machines that dominated the "wards"—which are single member political districts with winner-take-all voting rules.

As a reaction to the rule of the party bosses, there were attempts to reform elections and break up the ward system. In 1872, majority Republicans in the New York legislature passed a bill mandating Cumulative Voting, a form of semi-proportional representation, for New York City. The Democratic governor vetoed this system which would done away with single-seat wards—and instead also give a minority of voters an opportunity to elect a candidate of choice.

Between 1890 and 1920, many progressive voting reforms were put into practice. Women's suffrage, direct election of US Senators, open primaries, ballot initiative and referendum, home-rule municipal charters and non-partisan elections are still with us today. RCV was among these reforms adopted at the time.

RCV took hold in New York City along with cities in Ohio, Massachusetts and other places. Oregonians amended their state constitution to explicitly accommodate it—and this language exists to this day.

The system did what it was supposed to do—give voters more choices by the ability of ranking candidates. Voters were no longer stuck in a ward or district dominated by one party and could choose women, independents or racial minorities without splitting a constituency at the polls. The key is to have multiple seats up for election with the ballot results allocated proportional to the votes cast.

Mill and Hare envisioned the promise of minority representation, but in a sense of protectinggentry from the masses. With RCV in the US, minority representation came true but in a way that helped folks who were usually excluded from democratic institutions. In fact, the federal Voting Rights Act has used forms of Fair Voting (proportional representation) to remedy racially polarized and minority voter dilution voting in places where single-member districts are difficult to create. Over 100 jurisdictions in our nation use this kind of voting for inclusive elections.

The Establishment Pushes Back

At first, opponents of RCV went to court with various suits. They claimed it violated the equal protection of the 14th Amendment. But the Courts disagreed and RCV was upheld as legal.

Opponents then mounted repeal efforts. In most places there was a ballot question calling for repealing RCV every time there was an election! Even though voters repeatedly turned the pro-party machine effort down, the same repeal question appeared on the ballot faithfully, year after year.

After World War II, the Cold War and racial issues came into prominence. In some of the cities using RCV, blacks were getting elected and opponents conducted "whisper campaigns" bemoaning racial block voting. In New York, during the height of the Red Scare, of couple of Communist Party members were elected to the city council. Opponents decried RCV as Stalinist and un-American.

It was these charges, unrelenting repeal efforts and voters forgetting why the system was implemented in the fist place that led to successful repeals. By 1960, all cities except for Cambridge MA, had repealed Ranked Choice Voting.

This fall voters in Duluth Minnesota and the whole state of Maine will be considering the reform. These ballot measures have a great chance of winning. RCV is established in California’s Bay Area, the Twin Cities and Portland Maine.

Now that a leading reformer has added this idea to his unique presidential campaign effort, it looks like Ranked Choice Voting's time for national exposure might be coming after all.


Watch the video: Η ιστορία πίσω από την πιο γνωστή φωτογραφία της ιστορίας της Νέας Υόρκης