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Mapping Electoral Trends in NY's 11th Congressional District

Posted February 23, 2015

Maps Provide Context for Recently Scheduled Special Election

In November 2014, Representative Michael Grimm was re-elected in congressional district 11, spanning all of Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn. He won by a strong 13-point margin (53% to 40%) despite the cloud of a federal indictment. Two months after the election, however, Grimm pleaded guilty to a federal charge of tax evasion, and resigned his seat in January 2015. Just last week, Governor Cuomo set a special election for this district for May 5, 2015. Staten Island District Attorney Dan Donovan is the GOP candidate for the district; no Democratic candidate has been selected yet.

Despite Rep. Grimm's solid Republican victory, enrollment in this district [PDF] is plurality Democratic (just over 47% in 2014, compared with 26% Republican and 21% not enrolled in any party). More than twice as many registered voters live on Staten Island (265,000) than in the Brooklyn portion of the district (115,000), but even on Staten Island alone, enrollment is 45% Democratic compared with 29% Republican.

New maps from the Center for Urban Research at The Graduate Center of electoral results in district 11 reveal that not only is enrollment in the district predominantly Democratic, but other Democrats have won the district in recent years even while Grimm was re-elected. The maps and analysis provide background and context for this closely watched federal race.

The maps are available at the NYC Election Atlas, a joint project of the Graduate Center, CUNY's Graduate School of Journalism, and the Center for Community and Ethnic Media.

In the 2014 general election, for example, Governor Andrew Cuomo (the Democratic incumbent) received a larger margin of victory in the district (15 percentage points) than Republican congressional incumbent Grimm (13 points) - see map below.
Gov. Cuomo's 2014 election results in NY11
view map in PDF (opens in new window)

In 2012, President Barack Obama (Democratic incumbent) won the district with a similar vote margin (51%-48%) as Republican Grimm (52%-47%). In 2010, Democrat Cuomo exceeded his later margin of victory by winning the district 58%-39%. Even in 2013, although Bill de Blasio lost the district 44%-52% in his successful bid for mayor, he did much better than his Democratic mayoral candidate predecessors in all areas of the district.

These split-ticket voting patterns suggest that voters in district 11 take a strategic approach to elections rather than straight party-line voting. In the upcoming special election there will be no opportunity for splitting the ticket.  If the candidates for NY11 are perceived by the voters (and the media) as competitive, with no obvious front-runner for voters to gravitate toward, the election outcome will be especially interesting and the NYC Election Atlas team will be watching closely.