It’s the final push as contenders for New York City’s top job put their best foot, and in some case, their best shoes forward to try and sway voters. But while they try to spark passion in the general public in the most critical hours, is the electorate really listening, or have New Yorkers been paying attention to more subtle cues?
Elijah Johnson met Christine Quinn while she was campaigning a few weeks ago.
“I didn’t like her shoes,” he said.
The 36-year-old retailer who lives and works in the Village said first impressions are all anyone has in a city like New York.
“Looks count and you have to look good to succeed,” he said.
Maria Marino runs La Moda Fashion in Spanish Harlem, selling clothing to women in the area for the last six years. The 47-year old entrepreneur notices two things about a person: their shoes and their pants. Looks, she said, helped influence her vote because she wants the person who invests in the issues and their appearance to represent her city, but she wouldn’t let on who gets her vote.
The way a person looks is important no matter what city you live in, according to Jami Crane, an image and style consultant who works with clients ranging from students to business professionals.
“Image and clothing are absolutely critical to consider during any election,” Crane said. She believes they may add to a person’s credibility and what they’re trying to impress upon the public.
But not everyone agrees. Chelsea resident Andrea Martens voted for the person she felt had the city’s best interests at heart. Even though looks don’t account much for her, the 24-year old said she wouldn’t be surprised if wardrobe and style played a part in the way people voted or how candidates presented themselves.
“It is New York City after all,” she said.
Jessica Proud, a media spokesperson for Joe Lhota’s campaign, said despite being a native New Yorker, Lhota’s image hasn’t changed in years.
“Joe likes to buy all his shirts from Costco,” she said. “He doesn’t like to get bogged down with expensive clothing.”
The creature of habit apparently even lays out his clothes the night before.
“He’s already got his suit and tie picked out for voting day,” Proud added with a laugh.
That’s something Me’chelle Turner,22, understands very well. The Spanish Harlem resident always knows what she’s going to wear before she leaves home.
“I care about the way I look, and I’ve been watching what the candidates are wearing,” she said before grunting the word suits.
“Even the gay one,” she added, referring to Christine Quinn, whose office didn’t return calls.
While wardrobe and appearance can play a key role in shaping any campaign, Crane believes they shouldn’t distract voters from a candidate’s message and platform, adding, “I am not sure it plays a stronger role in this election.”
That’s not necessarily true in Turner’s case. Even though it wasn’t Bill de Blasio’s own personal style that helped push her into his voting camp, the image of one of his relatives did – his son Dante’s.
“The afro got me,” she laughed.
On this primary day, while a lot of New Yorkers are casting their ballots for the candidate of their choice, fast food workers in Washington Heights are debating the weight this election holds for their economic futures.
“Homelessness and getting laid off are issues everyone’s facing, that’s why we need a new mayor,” said Amy Grossman, 19, a resident of Washington Heights and an employee at the fast food chain Chipotle on 168th and Broadway.
Grossman was referencing the 73% increase in homelessness during Mayor Bloomberg’s 12 years in office.
“I worked for minimum wage, and I just feel it’s horrible,” she said.”
Washington Heights boasts a population of 159,314 residents, mainly Dominican Americans. Workers and residents alike are looking for a mayor that will raise minimum wage, end the threats of homelessness and make a change in their neighborhood and city.
For six years minimum wage has remained frozen at $7.25.
“I’m fine here, Grossman concluded. “I love working here. I have a second job, but that’s for food and shopping expenses.” She said she’ll vote for Thompson, because he seems more involved in the community.
Across the street from Chipotle, Jelani Fernandez, 25, an unemployed resident took a five minute break from his job hunt and sipped a hot cup of coffee in the neighborhood’s McDonald’s. He said he’s not voting because all the candidates appear to be the same. But he wants the new mayor to increase minimum wage, “maybe $15, $16, $17,” he said.
In regards to the ever-widening gap between the city’s rich and poor, Fernandez said fast food is an option for people to not be jobless, but there should be more options.
“This rise of rent, low incomes, more taxes on the lower and middle classes limit people to work and to stay home,” he said. “You have to pay the bills, the electrical bill, phone bill, food bill, you live a slaves life, you go to work and then you go back to your cage.”
Maintaining a job that is unable to provide the basic necessities is not an option for Fernandez.
“If I have no choice or other option, I would take a fast food job with my mind already thinking about the next step in my career to take,” he said.
Another block north, a new Dunkin Donuts has opened up in the neighborhood. Just one month in operation, Dunkin workers there too are in favor of increasing their wages. Crystal Lopez, 22, a Bronx native, said she can’t afford everything she needs on her current wages.
Lopez fears she cannot afford her already humble lifestyle. In the end she said, “only if things start to change will the new mayor become important in my life.”
If forced to make due with the current minimum wage Lopez said she would just make do.
“I’ll just cut my spending and keep working really hard to survive,” she said.
WILLIAMSPORT, Pa. – Most voters leaving the Annunciation Parish Center in downtown Williamsport today walked out of the building carrying a bright orange sheet of paper, littered with rules, requirements and stipulations.
The sheets, which were handed out by poll workers, were part of an effort to educate voters on a recent shift in state voting law: starting in November’s presidential election, anyone who wants to vote in Pennsylvania must present an approved type of photo identification – such as a driver’s license or passport – before casting a ballot.
The law, which was enacted on March 14, makes Pennsylvania one of only five states in the country to enact such strict legislation on photo IDs at polling places, according to the National Conference of State Legislatures.
Most other states have looser requirements for voter identification, and almost half have no voter identification law.
Outside the polls on Tuesday, many Williamsport residents seemed indifferent to the new requirements, saying that it is not uncommon to be asked for ID in a variety of situations.
“I don’t think it should cause a problem at all,” said Jeffrey Grimes, 49, who was leaving the polling station with his daughter Jennie, 18, a first-time voter. “It should be pretty easy to do.”
In national political circles, however, the voter identification debate has been filled with controversy.
In Texas and South Carolina, the Department of Justice said that the bills would disproportionately discourage minorities from voting, since minorities in those states are less likely to possess a driver’s license or another acceptable form of photo ID (the DOJ was able to intervene because both states are required to receive preclearance on any change affecting voting under the federal Voting Rights Act)
And in Wisconsin, where a photo ID bill was actually enacted in mid-2011, two state judges struck the legislation down in March 2012. The second judge to rule on the case said that the law violated the state’s constitution, writing in his decision that no law should undermine a citizen’s right to vote.
In all of the states where legislation was proposed and/or enacted – and in Rhode Island and Alabama, where there are plans to implement stricter photo ID requirements by 2014 – the push for the new law was driven primarily by Republican lawmakers, who said it would help lower the potential for voter fraud.
But that explanation hasn’t sat well with many Democrats, including John Mussare, a Williamsport resident and chair of the Lycoming County Democratic Party.
In a phone interview, Mussare said that he thought the Pennsylvania legislation – which was signed into law by Republican governor Tom Corbett and supported by a majority Republican legislature – was “nothing more than a thinly veiled attempt to suppress voters,” and that he is strongly against limiting anyone’s ability to vote.
“Who’s going to be impacted by not getting to the polls?” he asked in a raspy tone. “It’s going to be the poor, the elderly, the Democrats. It’s going to have a debilitating effect on those classes of people.”
Nicholas Grimes, a 20-year-old student at Lycoming College and an elected member of the Lycoming County Republican Committee, disagreed. He said that Democrats and other opponents of the law were blowing the issue out of proportion.
“Honestly, I don’t think this should be that big of a deal,” he said. “I have to have a state ID to take my garbage to the dump, but not to elect my country’s leaders? That seems a little backwards to me.”
Despite all of the hoopla surrounding the issue, few voters who visited the polls on a chilly April morning seemed terribly concerned.
“I just think it’s silly,” said Dave Abernathy, 60, a silver-haired voter who was also handing out leaflets in support of several local Republicans. “I don’t think there was a problem.”
“The jury is going to be out on this for awhile,” said Charles Greevey, 67, a bearded local attorney who was helping his wife work the polls. “There’s going to be a lot to figure out.”
Today, five states will vote in primary elections. Usually, this late in the line up, the presidential nomination is cinched and voter’s preferences are all but irrelevant. And that looks like it will be the case again.
Not long ago, common wisdom held that this year would be different–that the Republican contest would still be raging and that polls would be busier than normal. But he tide has turned again and New York, Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, Connecticut and Delaware once again find themselves in the backwater of primary election history.
With Rick Santorum officially out of the race and Newt Gingrich effectively out of money, the path to the Republican nomination has been cleared for former Massachusetts governor, Mitt Romney. With the candidate racking up endorsements and attacking President Obama in earnest, there is no question that the general election has begun.
Though today should be be a quiet day at the polls, the reporters at Pavement Pieces will be bringing you the scoop from the states that will be holding elections.