“We have some other type of crisis here, partially organized by Hurricane Sandy, partially organized by the Board of Elections,” Assemblyman Alec Brook-Krasny told Politicker this morning, ticking off poll sites that did not receive machines until 8:04 a.m. and 7:30 a.m. respectively, over an hour after they were scheduled to open. “My question is, if they knew, if the Board of Elections knew yesterday this was the poll site that would be assigned today, were they sleeping this morning? It disenfranchises many people.”
We asked if there might be a possibility of a re-do election.
“That is a possibility, I think,” he answered, noting all of the Hurricane Sandy-induced chaos was in the Democratic parts of his district. “I have two parts of the district. Bay Ridge and Dyker Heights, which is conservative, and Coney Island and Sea Gate, which is much more liberal, and I’m a Democrat….This is all becoming totally ridiculous. This is not about me, of course. This is about 40,000 voters losing the right to vote.”
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.
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 certainly can’t be be accused of sitting down after his reported loss to veteran Rep. Charlie Rangel in last Tuesday’s Democratic primary. As Mr. Rangel’s lead whittled down to just 802 votes over the weekend, the Espaillat campaign hired election law guru Marty Connor and promoted a hotline available for voters to register complaints about Election Day shenanigans. A State Supreme Court will hear an injunction request from Mr. Espaillat today and the Board of Elections will start counting more than 2,000 affidavit ballots Thursday morning.
“As the New York State Supreme Court considers the serious voting-access and counting issues in the 13th Congressional District election, we are pleased to welcome Marty Connor to lead our legal team,” Mr. Espaillat’s spokesman, Ibrahim Khan, said in a press release. “Our campaign will continue to push for every vote to be counted in a transparent and democratic process.”