Now, to the numbers. Joe Biden carried the Empire State 61-38, which was very similar to Hillary Clinton’s 59-37 showing four years before. However, New York is another state where notable differences between the two elections lurk just below the surface. Biden carried 20 seats, two more than Clinton took in 2016, while the remaining seven constituencies voted for Donald Trump both times.
However, while Biden improved on Clinton’s margin in 15 districts, Trump made some notable gains in some extremely blue turf in New York City. Republicans also managed to oust two Democrats who represented Trump areas: Max Rose and Anthony Brindisi.
We’ll begin with a look at those two Trump/Biden seats, the neighboring 18th and 19th Districts in the Hudson Valley. The 18th had swung to the right from 51-47 Obama to 49-47 Trump in 2016, but Biden took it 52-47 this time. While this district was competitive downballot in 2012 and 2014, five-term Democratic Rep. Sean Patrick Maloney, who now chairs the DCCC, has had no trouble winning reelection since then despite the temporary shift towards Trump.
Just to the north is Democratic Rep. Antonio Delgado’s 19th District, which followed a similar trajectory. This Hudson Valley seat lurched hard from 52-46 Obama to 51-44 Trump, but it snapped back to a 50-48 margin for Biden, making it the closest district in the state.
Republicans turned back aggressive Democratic attempts to flip the 19th in 2012, 2014, and 2016, but the GOP’s luck has ebbed considerably in recent years. Delgado unseated GOP Rep. John Faso 51-46 after a very expensive 2018 campaign, and House Republicans failed to recruit a strong opponent to take on the new incumbent two years later. Major outside groups ended up focusing their efforts elsewhere instead, and Delgado ran well ahead of Biden to beat his underfunded opponent, Kyle Van De Water, 54-43.
Unfortunately for House Democrats, though, crossover voting very much worked against them in their quest to take down Republican Rep. John Katko in the Syracuse-based 24th District. This seat slipped sharply between 2012 and 2016, sliding from 57-41 Obama to 49-45 Clinton, but a decline in third-party voting helped Biden rebound here to 53-44.
Republican Rep. John Katko, however, fended off Democrat Dana Balter 53-43 after an expensive 2020 race; two years earlier, Katko had defeated Balter by a modest 53-47. Katko’s win makes him the only New York Republican in a Biden seat, and one of just eight nationwide we’ve encountered so far.
While Biden decisively carried his remaining 17 districts, there were some large shifts towards Trump in several dark blue seats in New York City. The largest such movement anywhere in the state came in the Bronx-based 15th District, a majority-Latino area with a large Black population that is now represented by freshman Rep. Ritchie Torres.
The 15th had the distinction of being the bluest district in the nation in both 2012 and 2016, but it lost that crown this year. In fact, it was only Biden’s second-best district in the state, with his 86-13 performance sharply down from Obama’s 97-3 margin and Clinton’s similar 94-5 share. (California Rep. Barbara Lee’s 13th District, which supported Biden 89-9, is the bluest of the 396 districts we’ve calculated 2020 data for so far.)
Biden’s strongest showing came in the neighboring 13th District, which he won 88-11, though that was 10 points closer than Clinton’s 92-5 win. Biden also saw a similar double-digit drop in the 7th and 14th Districts, which, like the 13th and 15th, are heavily Latino.
We’ll now turn to the seven Trump seats, all of which are in Republican hands, beginning with the GOP’s two pickups. The 11th District, which is home to all of Staten Island and part of southern Brooklyn, saw Obama prevail 52-47 days after Hurricane Sandy devastated the area, but Trump took it 54-44 four years later. Democratic Rep. Max Rose was counting on Biden to make some gains here, but Trump’s slightly larger 55-44 win in 2020 helped power Republican Nicole Malliotakis to a 53-47 victory and make her the only member of her party to represent any part of New York City.
The 22nd District in the Binghamton and Utica areas upstate also proved to be frustrating turf for Democrats. The GOP’s performance at the top of the ticket ballooned from 49.2-48.8 Romney to 55-39 Trump in 2016, and while Trump did lose some altitude this time, he still won by a clear 55-43 margin. That was just enough for Republican Claudia Tenney, who unseated Democratic incumbent Anthony Brindisi by 109 votes in a race that was only resolved this week.
Trump did see his margins dramatically diminish in two neighboring Long Island seats he’d flipped in 2016, but he still carried them both. Trump slid from 54-42 to 51-47 in the 1st District in the eastern part of Suffolk County, but Republican Rep. Lee Zeldin turned back Democrat Nancy Goroff 55-45. The 2nd District just to the west, meanwhile, also supported Trump by a 51-47 spread four years after he’d won it 53-44. Democrats badly wanted to flip this open seat, but Republican Andrew Garbarino ran ahead of Trump and beat Democrat Jackie Gordon 53-46.
Trump carried each of his remaining four districts, all of which are located upstate, by double digits. The largest shift to the left anywhere in the state took place in the 27th District in the Buffalo suburbs, where Trump sank from 60-35 to 57-41. Republican Chris Jacobs had won a June special election only 51-46 against Democrat Nate McMurray, but the new incumbent prevailed in their November rematch by a hefty 60-39 margin.
While we have every confidence in our calculations, the sorry state of election administration in New York has revealed some troubling questions about the underlying results. The state Board of Elections certified the November returns in early December, but a number of counties have since updated their numbers—updates that the state board has not, and probably will never, account for.
We’ve therefore manually gone through the results for all 62 New York counties and compared each of their results with the state’s. No fewer than 13 counties have discrepancies, so we’ve put together a spreadsheet tracking the differences. In all cases, we’ve used the results from county-level authorities.
All but one of these 13 counties added votes since certification, with Suffolk County adding a whopping 18,720 in the presidential race—more than 2% of its total. The lone exception was Ontario County, which removed 540 ballots from tabulation. We’re told that the county initially included these votes twice and later fixed the error.
There’s also the matter of the 22nd District, where a judge ordered each of the district’s eight counties to include any additional ballots that were counted during the course of the three-month lawsuit over the results. None of these counties has released updated numbers that are meaningfully different from those the state certified two months ago, however. The largest difference among this group was in Chenango County, where the county’s total includes an additional 24 ballots.
Should any counties release newer totals at any point, we’ll update our calculations, though as we said at the top, the impact on the toplines will be small and in no case will shift a district from Biden to Trump or vice-versa.