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Analysis: Whoever wins Tuesday faces an uphill battle against Tom Reed

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Voting booths in polling place

One area of excitement among Democratic voters when they look past Tuesday’s primary is the fact that New York’s 23rd Congressional District appears to be a very winnable race, despite being rated as solid Republican by the Cook Political Report.

That +6 advantage for Republicans, however, could be much more substantial, depending on much more than Democrats staying home.

In the last election, with a turnout of nearly 69 percent, President Donald Trump posted a 15-point margin of victory over Hillary Clinton in NY-23 – substantially higher than other +6 rated Republican districts, according to the Cook Political Report. This is particularly interesting considering the last Presidential election – featuring Barack Obama and Mitt Romney – had a spread of less than 2 percent, in favor of Romney.

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Looking at registration numbers and voter turnout from the last election, the Ithaca Times noted that left-leaning voters, mathematically, are hugely outnumbered, and that any candidate to emerge from Tuesday’s primary would need a substantial amount of support from Conservatives – as well as nearly all of the district’s 84,000 independent voters – to break the spread and turn NY-23 blue.

County-By-County Breakdown

Using the most up-to-date voter registration numbers, as well as figures from the Federal Elections Commission and voter turnout numbers from the New York State Board of Elections, we pulled the following statistics, accompanied here with supporting analysis. Our broad conclusion of registered voters in a heated political year? That – even with full turnout, roughly 17 percent more voters – voters registered with left-leaning  parties would still fall 11 percent short of the total number of people who voted for Republican Tom Reed in the previous election.

While one might assume that this means all hope is lost for the Democrats in November, there are a number of intangibles to consider this year in particular. While we used turnout data from the last election – which was heavily driven by enthusiasm to elect or defeat current president Donald Trump – a number of actions by the current administration (wedge issues such as our current immigration crisis, alienation of our traditional allies, gutting or consolidation of key departments such as the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Education, or a lack of response to devastation in Puerto Rico, to name a few) could suppress votes on the right in the way Bernie Sanders’ failure to make the ballot in the general election hurt the Democrats’ cause.

Mathematically, however, one thing is clear: the spread between conservative voters and left-leaning voters is too great in NY-23 for a Democrat to win without stealing voters from Reed.

The numbers:

Allegheny County – 26,170 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 5,726 (6,057 Total)

94.5% Active | 23% Of County Voter Base | 1.4% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 12,516 (12,928 Total)

96.8% Active | 49% Of County Voter Base | 2.9% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 1,261 (1,335 Total)

94.5% Active | 5.1% Of County Voter Base | 0.3% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 4,801 (5,122 Total)

93.7% Active | 19.6% Of County Voter Base | 1.2% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 72.1% (Vote Results: 27.1% Democrat; 66.7% Republican)

Cattaraugus County – 47,809 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 14,029 (15,010 Total)

93.5% Active | 31.4% Of County Voter Base | 3.5% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 17,683 (18,670 Total

94.7% Active | 39% Of County Voter Base | 4.3% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 2,291 (2,474 Total)

92.6% Active | 5.2% Of County Voter Base | 0.6% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 9,087 (9,992 Total)

91% Active | 5.1% Of County Voter Base | 23.1% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 66.0% (Vote Results: 33.5% Democrat; 58.6% Republican)

Chautauqua County – 82,738 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 25,235 (27,306 Total)

92.4% Active | 33% Of County Voter Base | 6.3% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 25,775 (27,288 Total)

94.5% Active | 33% Of County Voter Base | 6.3% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 4,673 (5,123 Total)

91.2% Active | 6.2% Of County Voter Base | 1.2% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 18,092 (20,104 Total)

89.9% Active | 24.3% Of County Voter Base | 4.7% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 66.2% (Vote Results: 39.8% Democrat; 54.9% Republican)

Chemung County – 54,111 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 15,224 (16,460 Total)

92.5% Active | 30.4% Of County Voter Base | 3.8% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 20,264 (21,534 Total)

94.5% Active | 39.8% Of County Voter Base | 5.0% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 3,066 (3,366 Total)

91.1% Active | 6.2% Of County Voter Base | 0.8% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 10,301 (11,425 Total)

90.2% Active | 21.1% Of County Voter Base | 2.6% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 67.5% (Vote Results: 37.7% Democrat; 57.9% Republican)

Ontario County – 26,966 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 8,487 (8,779 Total)

96.7% Active | 32.6% Of County Voter Base | 2.0% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 9,221 (9,471 Total)

97.4% Active | 35.1% Of County Voter Base | 2.2% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 1,383 (1,439 Total)

96.1% Active | 5.3% Of County Voter Base | 0.3% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 6,245 (6,533 Total)

95.6% Active | 24.2% Of County Voter Base | 1.5% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 70.0% (Vote Results: 38.9% Democrat; 54.0% Republican)

Schuyler County – 12,540 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 3,254 (3,490 Total)

93.2% Active | 27.8% Of County Voter Base | 0.8% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 4,717 (5,017 Total)

94.0% Active | 40.0% Of County Voter Base | 1.2% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 711 (792 Total)

89.7% Active | 6.3% Of County Voter Base | 0.2% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 2,563 (2,820 Total)

90.8% Active | 22.5% Of County Voter Base | 0.7% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 70.4% (Vote Results: 36.7% Democrat; 59.1% Republican)

Seneca County – 20,393 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 5,911 (6,305 Total)

93.8% Active | 31.0% Of County Voter Base | 1.5% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 7,491 (7,874 Total)

95.1% Active | 38.6% Of County Voter Base | 1.8% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 1,002 (1,112 Total)

90.1% Active | 5.5% Of County Voter Base | 0.3% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 4,050 (4,461 Total)

90.8% Active | 21.9% Of County Voter Base | 1.0% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 69.1% (Vote Results: 39.7% Democrat; 53.8% Republican)

Steuben County – 61,468 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 14,026 (15,150 Total)

92.3% Active | 24.6% Of County Voter Base | 3.5% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 28,248 (29,843 Total)

94.7% Active | 48.6% Of County Voter Base | 6.9% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 3,045 (3,357 Total)

90.7% Active | 5.5% Of County Voter Base | 0.8% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 10,291 (11,515 Total)

89.4% Active | 18.7% Of County Voter Base | 2.7% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 68.9% (Vote Results: 31.7% Democrat; 64.5% Republican)

Tompkins County – 60,515 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 27,218 (31,221 Total)

87.2% Active | 52.0% Of County Voter Base | 7.2% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 11,240 (12,378 Total)

90.8% Active | 20.4% Of County Voter Base | 2.9% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 2,184 (2,479 Total)

88.1% Active | 4.1% Of County Voter Base | 0.6% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 11,089 (13,150 Total)

84.3% Active | 21.7% Of County Voter Base | 3.0% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 71.1% (Vote Results: 67.6% Democrat; 26.9% Republican)

Tioga County – 25,216 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 6,222 (6,696 Total)

92.9% Active | 26.6% Of County Voter Base | 1.5% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 10,328 (10,989 Total)

94.0% Active | 43.6% Of County Voter Base | 2.5% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 1,344 (1,469 Total)

91.5% Active | 5.8% Of County Voter Base | 0.3% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 4,947 (5,479 Total)

90.3% Active | 21.7% Of County Voter Base | 1.3% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 67.8% (Vote Results: 30.2% Democrat; 62.9% Republican)

Yates County – 14,317 Voters

Registered Democrats (Active): 3,233 (3,422 Total)

94.5% Active | 23.9% Of County Voter Base | 0.8% District’s Voter Base

Registered Republicans (Active): 6,466 (6,765 Total)

95.6% Active | 47.2% Of County Voter Base | 1.6% District’s Voter Base

Independence Party Voters (Active): 686 (732 Total)

93.7% Active | 5.1% Of County Voter Base | 0.2% District’s Voter Base

Independent Voters (Active): 2,707 (2,971 Total)

91.1% Active | 20.8% Of County Voter Base | 0.7% District’s Voter Base

2016 Voter Turnout: 71.4% (Vote Results: 33.4% Democrat; 59.9% Republican)

NY-23 Total – 432,273 Voters

On The Left Side:

Registered Democrats (Active): 128,565 (139,896 Total)

91.9% Active | 32.4% District’s Voter Base

Left-Leaning Parties (GRE, WEP, WOR) : 3,574 (4,016 Total)

88.9% Active | 0.9% District’s Voter Base

Total: 91.8% Active | 33.3% District’s Voter Base

On The Right Side:

Registered Republicans (Active): 153,949 (162,757 Total)

94.6% Active | 37.7% District’s Voter Base

Right-Leaning Parties (IND, REF, CON) (Active): 29,081 (31,683 Total)

91.8% Active | 7.3% District’s Voter Base

Total: 94.1% Active | 45.0% District’s Voter Base

Wild Cards:

Independent Voters (Active): 84,173 (93,572 Total)

90.0% Active | 21.6% District’s Voter Base

If we compare registration numbers back to 2012, you’ll notice that Democratic registration has actually fallen by about 10,000 voters while Republicans and right-leaning third parties have stayed stable, their former 30,000 vote advantage today standing at an advantage of roughly 50,000. This means that a viable Democratic candidate in 2012 (in this case, Nate Shinagawa – who got 127,000 people to vote for him with 129,000 registered Democratic voters – and still lost by 5 percentage points) would not be viable today.

Basically, for a Democrat to win, Republicans would have to not show up and Democrats would need to show up in force with massive independent and Republican help in order to cover the spread.

While the numbers above could help isolate the areas where a Democratic candidate should focus their efforts this summer and heading into autumn, one thing is clear: the statistics don’t shine too brightly for any Democrat who can’t win over moderates and Republicans.

 Follow Nick Reynolds on Twitter @Nickthaca

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(1) comment

Sara Hess

Looking closer at the stats, I come to a different conclusion. 1. Using my own estimates, I think a large portion of the "right leaning" parties registered in the "Independence party" thinking it was the "non-affiliated" choice rather than a conservative/ libertarian party name. So a good portion of those would actually belong in the left-leaning/Dem column. 2. Using past history to determine "active" percent doesn't include actual experience in special elections since 2016. That shows that the turn-out for Dems is greater than expected from history. And I believe that many of the non-affiliated voters who have been right-leaning are now anti-Trump and will either vote with the Dems or stay home. I agree the race will be tight and hard-fought, and that the Dem candidate will be an underdog for odds-makers. Having a very actively contested primary election will bring out more Dems in Nov and new voters too, and I believe Tom Reed can be beat.