Election Day 2016 revealed a nation divided. Hillary Clinton won about 1.5 million votes more than Trump, but Trump’s votes were concentrated in key Midwestern swing states, giving him a clear win in the Electoral College and a ticket to the White House for the next four years.
Here in Rockland, the results also revealed a divided county, although Clinton fared better at the county level than she did nationally. 135,000 Rockland voters cast ballots in the presidential race, and countywide, Clinton picked up 69,330 votes (51.3%) to Trump’s 60,906 (45.1%), giving her a margin of 8,424 votes (6.2% points) over Trump. Libertarian Gary Johnson collected 2,282 votes (1.7%) while Green Party candidate Jill Stein was the choice of 1,349 Rocklanders (1.0%). 1,200 people (0.9%) chose to write in a candidate for president rather than picking between any of the choices on the ballot.
Where did Clinton’s and Trump’s votes come from in Rockland?
Clinton won four of the five towns in Rockland, winning majorities and besting Trump by more than 3,000 votes in Clarkstown, Haverstraw, and Ramapo (by 3,549 votes in Clarkstown, which she won 52.3% to 44.2%, by 3,385 votes in Haverstraw, which she won 60% to 36.7%, and by 3,176 votes in Ramapo which she won 52.0% to 44.6%). In Orangetown she finished under 50% of the vote but scored a narrow plurality win, beating Trump by 531 votes (49% to 46.9%). Trump dominated in Rockland’s smallest town, crushing Clinton in Stony Point by 2,217 votes (62.5% to 34.1%).
Unsurprisingly, Clinton ran strongest in the diverse and/or liberal areas of the county, winning by overwhelming margins ranging from 30 points to more than 50 points in the Nyacks, Piermont, Grandview, Palisades, Haverstraw, Hillcrest, and most of Spring Valley and West Haverstraw. For example, in the 19 election districts of Nyack, South Nyack, Central Nyack, Upper Nyack, Grandview, and Piermont, Clinton finished with a combined 74.7% of the vote to Trump’s 21.5%, and beat Trump 6,477 – 1,830; she did even better in a set of 24 election districts with high numbers of black and Hispanic voters in and around the Village of Spring Valley, winning 8,480 votes to Trump’s 1,405 (83.9% to 13.9%).
She also easily carried the villages of Chestnut Ridge (57.7% to 37.6%), Pomona (59.4% to 37.6%), Montebello (55.4% to 40.6%) and Hillburn (57.4% to 37.5%), all of New City north of New Hempstead/Congers Road, and parts of Nanuet and New City north of Route 59 and west of the Palisades Parkway. Valley Cottage (50.4% to 45.8%) and the Village of Suffern (53.5% to 42.7%) went more narrowly for Clinton. One area that Clinton won handily was not liberal at all. That would be the Hasidic village of New Square, which gave Clinton 95% of the vote, the only part of the Bloc Vote to support her candidacy.
Trump, by contrast, racked up his highest vote totals and largest margins in areas dominated by voters of the Ramapo Bloc, a set of 31 election districts centered in Monsey where Trump picked up 8,377 (79.6%) votes to Clinton’s 1,744 (16.6%). So strong was the turnout of the Monsey Bloc Vote for Trump that even Clinton’s dominance of the New Square Bloc Vote was not enough to keep Trump from winning the overall Bloc Vote by a margin of 8,498-4,199 (64.8% to 32%).
Not everyone realizes that there isn’t just one “Bloc Vote” but actually several different groups of Orthodox, ultra-Orthodox, and Hasidic voters in Ramapo. Though these groups tend to vote together for Ramapo town offices, they don’t always vote together for federal elections—as this year’s election illustrates. As noted above, the Village of New Square’s leaders threw their support behind Clinton, while the leaders of the Village of Kaser and other Hasidic groups in and around Monsey and Spring Valley were able to turn voters in their communities out strongly for Trump. These areas often (but not always) vote Democratic in local races but have typically voted Republican in national races, having supported Mitt Romney, John McCain, and George Bush in the last three presidential elections.
Outside of the Bloc, Trump drew his largest strength from Stony Point (where he carried 10 of 13 election districts with 60% of the vote or more) and Pearl River, where he won 5,541 – 2,920 (62.5% to 32.9%) and carried 13 of 16 election districts by at least 60% of the vote. He also won easily in Blauvelt (59.6% to 36.6%), Sloatsburg (59.1% to 36%), Wesley Hills (62.2% to 33.4%), Thiells, and much of Garnerville. The Village of Arimont, and the hamlets of Congers, Bardonia, and West Nyack went for Trump by narrower margins ranging between 51.8% to 54.5%.
What part of the county was the mostly even split between the two candidates? The south Orangetown hamlets of Tappan, Orangeburg, and Sparkill. In 11 of the 12 election districts in these hamlets, the winning candidate finished with less than 53% of the vote, and out of more than 6,200 votes cast in these hamlets, just 115 votes separated Clinton from Trump (49.1% to 47.2%).
Voter turnout in Rockland amounted to about 71% of registered voters (roughly 135,000 out of 190,000) countywide but was higher in Orangetown (78.4%), Clarkstown (76.6%) and Stony Point (74.4%). Haverstraw (70.3%) almost exactly matched the county average, while Ramapo’s relatively low turnout (62.8%) pulled the average down for the rest of the county.
[Elijah Reichlin-Melnick is the former Chair of the Nyack Democratic Committee and former Vice-President of Rockland County Young Democrats. In 2011 he was a Democratic candidate for Town Council in Orangetown, and in 2013 and 2015 was campaign manager of Orangetown Supervisor Andy Stewart’s successful re-election campaigns. He holds a Masters in City & Regional Planning from Rutgers University, where he learned how to create maps using ArcGIS.]