Mayor Michael Bloomberg warned Friday he fears the city’s Board of Elections could screw up this fall’s election so badly the city will be left without a mayor in 2014.
“We could go to January and not know who the mayor is,” Mr. Bloomberg said during his weekly radio sit-down with WOR’s John Gambling, repeating concerns he raised earlier this week about the potential for disaster.
Lena Dunham, the star and creator of HBO’s zeitgeisty comedy Girls, took to Twitter this afternoon to fight back against reports she did not vote in the presidential election last year despite filming a controversial ad urging others to cast a ballot for President Barack Obama. According to officials at the Board of Elections in Brooklyn, Ms. Dunham’s claim she voted by affidavit ballot may have merit.
Reports of chaotic situations at the polls around New York City this Election Day are mounting. The areas on the southwestern tip of Brooklyn that were damaged by Hurricane Sandy have experienced issues, but we’re also hearing about problems in neighborhoods that weren’t heavily impacted by the storm including Flatbush, Park Slope and parts of Manhattan. Brooklyn Councilman Jumaane Williams, who has been touring the polling sites in the East Flatbush and Flatbush portions of his district described the situation as “complete disorganization” and had harsh words for the city Board of Elections. He also suggested the federal or city government may need to take action against the BOE to prevent a similar situation from happening again.
“I think on a non-Sandy day they have problems doing a good election,” Mr. Williams said of the BOE. “Combine that with Sandy and they’re completely unorganized. They’ve had four years to plan this. Their only job is to plan elections and they can’t get it right. And you should have conditional plans, you should have backup plans, you should have contingency plans. Where are those plans? This is getting worse and worse.”
Dude Wheres My Ballot?
The Coney Island neighborhood of Brooklyn was among the hardest-hit areas by Hurricane Sandy last week and the storm’s impact is being felt as voters head to the polls today. As a result of the hurricane damage, many of Coney Island’s poll sites were changed, but according to reports on the scene, the Election Day chaos in the neighborhood sounds far worse than the planned changes.
“PS 370, which is supposed to be the ‘super’ Coney Isand poll site, there are areas where they don’t have the books to sign in, so people have to vote via affidavit,” one operative on the ground told Politicker. “Every poll site got up late. They don’t even have real police officers here, they have the recruits, police academy. They have no clue what to do, they’ve never done it before. Every site got off late because police academy got off late to open up. One of the new sites….it’s supposed to be a site, but the machines aren’t there.”
This account was echoed by other reports in Coney Island, and similar tales of voting issues in the Rockaways, which was also devastated by the hurricane.
Tomorrow’s electoral process just got a little bit easier for people displaced by Hurricane Sandy. Governor Andrew Cuomo acquiesced to pressure from several elected officials and good government groups this evening and signed an executive order allowing anyone registered in a federally-declared disaster area to vote by affidavit ballot or choose from one of several other alternatives.
Trying to figure out where to vote tomorrow? You’re not alone: with the presidential elections and several local races being voted on tomorrow, the state is at a loss of how to deal with the thousands of displaced citizens who no longer have a place to cast their ballot–nor any information on how to do so. Several good government groups believe an expanded provisional ballot program could improve the chaotic situation, but Governor Andrew Cuomo has yet to approve the proposal.
Earlier this afternoon, “a group of irate Orthodox community leaders” held a conference call to protest poll site changes implemented in the Far Rockaway neighborhood of Queens. In the call, local Jewish leaders alleged their new voting location was designed to dampen turnout in their ideologically conservative community as it struggles to deal with the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy’s devastation.
“We’re a group of people who really, really suffered tremendously,” Richard Altabe, a board member of the Far Rockaway Jewish Alliance, said. “Or voting rights are about to be taken away from us. It’s going to be difficult enough to get people to vote….Our ability to speak and have our voices heard is going to be squashed by circumstances. I’m really, really horrified.”
During a press conference updating New Yorkers on the latest developments in the aftermath of Hurricane Sandy, Mayor Michael Bloomberg also addressed arrangements made for Election Day this Tuesday. As at least 60 polling sites are without electricity or are otherwise compromised by storm damage, a number of last-minute decisions have been implemented by the Board of Elections. Needless to say, Mr. Bloomberg did not sound confident.
“The Board of Elections tells us that about 143,000 voters in all five boroughs will be assigned to poll sites different from their usual site,” he explained. “Over the next day, it’s going to be critical that the Board of Elections communicates this new information to their poll workers. Unfortunately, as you know, the Board has had a history of not opening all poll sites on time.”
On the steps of City Hall earlier this afternoon, council members and good-government advocates gathered to “sound the alarm” over problems that occurred during the September 13 primary elections, and urged both the Board of Elections and legislative bodies to act promptly to rectify the situation before November’s presidential election, when far more people are set to vote.
Councilman Jumaane Williams, who tweeted up a storm of frustration last Election Day and who led today’s event, urged everyone to pay particular attention to the tiny font size used on the ballots, which he said was significantly smaller than in past elections and created substantial problems for seniors unable to read the letters. To prove his point, he pointed to a poster that illustrated the smallness of the font. His colleague, Councilman Vinnie Gentile, channeled Jimmy McMillan, exclaiming, “The font is too damn small!”
State Senator Adriano Espaillat officially moved on to a new race at a meeting of the Northern Manhattan Democrats for Change and the Friends of Adriano Espaillat in Fort George Presbyterian Church tonight, but he still had a lot to say about the close and controversial congressional campaign he just lost to longtime incumbent Charlie Rangel. Mr. Espaillat, who conceded to Mr. Rangel on Monday announced his intention to run for re-election to the State Senate, something he repeatedly said he didn’t plan to do “at this time” during his congressional race.
“Do you want me to run for the Senate? Do you want me to run for the Senate? Do you want me to run for the Senate?” Mr. Espaillat shouted to the cheering crowd in the church before switching languages to officially announce his re-election bid.
“The fire has not been put out. The hope you had has to persist,” Mr. Espaillat said in Spanish. “The unity has to always survive.”