Who wins may depend on who shows up.
The Democratic mayoral hopefuls all believe they have a shot to win Gracie Mansion — and each is banking on a widely different estimate of voter turnout in Tuesday’s primary to back those claims.
Political outsider Andrew Yang’s campaign has said it sees a path to victory through a surge of new voters coming out that could push the number of ballots cast to 1.1 million, a giant leap from the 692,000 people who voted in the 2013 Democratic primary.
Nonprofit leader Dianne Morales’ campaign is guessing half that amount.
“None of them know. It’s literally darts at a board. Nobody knows how many people are going to turn,” political analyst and pollster George Fontas told The Post.
The 2021 election is unprecedented. It’s the first time in nearly half a century that the Big Apple has had a mayoral primary in June, the election comes on the heels of the coronavirus pandemic shutdown, and voters are faced with a crowded field of eight Democratic candidates because of the new ranked-choice voting system.
Campaigns and independent groups are going all out to push voters to the polls, having spent a combined $96 million in the Democratic mayoral primary so far, filings show.
Independent expenditures from third party groups, like super PACs, totaled $31.2 million, as of Friday. The mayoral campaigns have directly spent $64.9 million, including $39.2 million in public campaign finance.
Those totals don’t count the spending on the 35 open council seats, or the elections for public advocate, comptroller, borough presidents or judgeships.
“When Trump’s not on the ballot and people have a lot of mixed feelings on candidates it’s going to be a low turnout year,” said one city pol who’s closely tracking early voting results.
That pol said lower turnout favors a candidate like Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams who has a lot of support from dedicated voters including unions representing over 300,000 members and middle-class black New Yorkers.
“His base in Brooklyn is quite reliable,” the pol said, adding “Yang does better on low-information voters,” who are often first-time participants.
“It’s not looking good for Yang,” he said.
Experts and observers say that Yang badly needs a wave of new voters to have a shot at pulling out a major upset after polling showed him sliding into fourth place.
Yang’s range is between 750,000 to 1.1 million voters while both Adams and another frontrunner, civil rights lawyer Maya Wiley, are projecting between 800,000 and 900,000 voters.
Those figures are roughly in line with the 913,000 Gothamites who cast ballots in the hotly contested 2018 primary between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and challenger Cynthia Nixon.
“A 100,000-person range from 800,000 to 900,000 is more than 10 percent that they don’t know, which is an enormous number in a race this close,” Fontas said.
A recent New York Post poll found Adams in the lead with 21.3% of likely Democratic voters ranking him first, followed by 16.5% for Wiley, 16.2% for former Sanitation Commissioner Kathryn Garcia and Yang with 9.6%.
As of June 19, 155,000 people have voted early, according to the Board of Elections. Chris Coffey, Yang’s co-campaign manager, tweeted Saturday that he expected 200,000 ballots cast by Sunday including absentee ballots.
“So do we get 500-600k on E[lection] day? Plus more absentees. Maybe,” Coffey tweeted.
But rain is forecast for election day on June 22, which could dampen turnout.
While warning that no one knows the answer, Fontas has done some back-of-the-napkin calculations.
“My estimation– which is based on previous turnout, efforts that I’m aware of related to independent expenditures and other efforts, and based on how many City Council races and other down ballot races which theoretically should help push turnout a little bit– I would actually put the number in the 800,000 to 850,000 range. I would actually say 828,376 voters,” Fontas told The Post in an interview.
“It’s just a number that feels good,” he said.