Most people think of Valentine’s Day as a chance to spend time with the one you love, spend money on the one you want to love or console those who don’t have anyone who loves them anymore. No matter which category you’re in, most people don’t associate Valentine’s Day with voting—which is exactly what the Republican Party of New York is not just hoping for, but literally bragging about before Harlem’s special Valentine’s Day election.
Inez Dickens vacated her seat on the New York City Council when she won a Senate seat in the New York State Assembly last year. New York Mayor Bill de Blasio, in a move right up there with planning a romantic getaway the weekend before taxes are due, decided to hold the special election to replace her on Valentine’s Day. A total of nine candidates are vying for one seat in the nonpartisan election.
Municipal elections have notoriously low turnout. Special municipal elections? Even worse. There are more than 100,000 registered voters in the Harlem district, and most officials think the turnout will be somewhere between 8,000 and 13,000 voters, maybe less. That’s what Adele Malpass, chair of the Manhattan County Republican Party, is hoping for.
At a meeting last week to introduce the GOP’s preferred candidate, Dawn Simmons, Malpass was all but banking on low turnout of traditional Harlem voters to sneak her candidate in. Last week, WNYC New York’s NPR affiliate played a clip of Malpass saying, “Just imagine THEIR [emphasis added] faces on February 15th if a Republican won in Harlem—it would shake the foundation!”
Her words were met with laughter and cheers from the GOP audience. Now, I’m not sure whom she meant by “their” faces in Harlem, but my guess is that she didn’t just mean Democrats. The City Council race is both symbolic and significant in the face of an ever-changing Harlem, and the men and women who want that change not to reflect the local community are salivating at the chance for this seat. When political leaders, usually Republicans, are banking on low turnout in order to win elections, that should light a fire under any local resident to take the extra time out of the day to vote. It’s important to remind elected leaders and party heads who is supposed to work for whom.
So if you happen to be a Harlem voter, before you head out to dinner, go in for dinner or dine alone on Valentine’s Day, make sure you get out and vote.
Valentine’s Day may not always be for lovers, but at least this year it should be for voters.