NYC Board of Elections ‘hopes’ polling sites will be up and running today
This primary rides on ‘hope’!
A top official with the New York City Board of Elections said the agency is struggling to find ways to get enough workers to polling sites in time to open them Tuesday morning, and is blaming the overnight subway shutdown that’s been going on for weeks.
“We hope so,” Manhattan GOP commissioner Fred Umane, who serves as the board’s secretary, told The Post Monday when asked whether there would be enough poll workers on hand to avoid the overcrowding and long, hours-long lines that have plagued other cities this pandemic-struck primary season.
“We have to get them there,” he added. “It’s hard to book 10,000 Uber rides.”
Poll workers are required to be on-site at their locations an hour before New Yorkers start casting ballots at 6 am.
However, the subway system is now closed from 1 am to 5 am for coronavirus-related cleaning — leaving the BOE, which has known about the overnight issue for weeks, somehow scrambling to come up with alternate arrangements at the eleventh hour.
For its part, the MTA pointed to its ride-hail voucher program and bus system as two possible alternatives.
The transportation fiasco comes on top of mounting complaints that the Board of Elections vote-by-mail program failed to get ballots out to New Yorkers who requested absentee ballots to avoid lines and crowds during the coronavirus pandemic.
“I do know a number of people who have not received their ballots, I’ve talked to 10 people who have not,” said Assemblyman Robert Carroll (D-Brooklyn), who is also an election lawyer.
“Obviously we are in unprecedented times so I am willing to say look, there’s a little bit of latitude so I’m willing to understand, but I don’t like the fact that I’m worried about whether or not people are getting their ballots, whether or not they can vote tomorrow,” he added.
State Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Manhattan) said the dysfunction would only fuel calls for reforms at the Board of Elections.
“This is yet one more indication that the board needs a serious overhaul,” he said, adding that he’s received dozens of complaints. “I’m worried about how it’s going to look tomorrow mainly because I’ve had constituents say they submitted an application and never heard back.”
The New York City Board of Elections — a fiefdom controlled by the local political parties under state law — was unable to provide tallies about the number of ballots it had mailed and received back as of Monday, despite repeated requests from The Post.
But figures from the state’s election board show that more than 676,000 absentee ballots had been mailed in the five boroughs as of Friday — 204,614 in Brooklyn, 196,122 in Manhattan, 162,747 in Queens, 83,836 in The Bronx and 28,926 in Staten Island.
A party breakdown wasn’t immediately available, but political observers say the ballots likely skew heavily Democratic, as does the city.
That means two out of every three votes cast in Tuesday’s primary contests could be cast by mail if turnout rivals levels seen during the 2016 Democratic presidential contest between Hillary Clinton and Sen. Bernie Sanders.
Ballots can be postmarked as late as Tuesday to count — meaning votes will trickle in for days after the primary, making it difficult to project winners on election night.
“If there’s a spread of 10 percentage points between the candidates you can call the race on election night. Under 10, you probably wait for the paper ballots to be counted,” said consultant George Arzt, who is working for veteran Rep. Carolyn Maloney’s (D-Manhattan) reelection bid.
She is again facing off against Suraj Patel, who notched 40 percent of the vote in 2018.
That’s just one of the Democratic contests that observers are keeping close tabs on Tuesday night. Others are:
- New York’s 9th CD (Brooklyn): Rep. Yvette Clarke is in another fight for her political life against Adem Bunkeddeko — who she edged out by fewer than 2,000 votes in 2018. This race also includes Isiah James, an Army vet who nabbed the DSA endorsement; and Councilman Chaim Deutsch, who has not appeared at the debates.
- New York’s 15th CD (The Bronx): There is no favorite in the fractured race to succeed Congressman Jose Serrano, which includes Councilman Ruben Diaz Sr., who is best known for his controversial statements about gay rights; Councilman Ritchie Torres, who chairs the Council’s investigations committee; former Council Speaker Melissa Mark-Viverto and Assemblyman Michael Blake.
- New York’s 16th CD (The Bronx and Westchester): Longtime entrenched Rep. Eliot Engel faces his first real challenge in years from Jamaal Bowman, who helped found a school in The Bronx. Engel has rolled out a slew of high profile endorsements, including from Clinton and Sen. Chuck Schumer, as he tries to battle back from a slew of gaffes including a hot mic moment that gave the impression he did not really care about the district.
Meanwhile, high-flying democratic socialist and freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is getting a challenge from a former Republican and financial news anchor, Michelle Caruso-Cabrera.
Ocasio-Cortez is expected to win the race, which centered on her opposition to the Amazon headquarters deal for Long Island City, her far-left leanings as a leader of the congressional progressives and brought renewed attention to complaints she hasn’t focused enough on constituent services.
Meanwhile transit officials insist they’re doing their part to get poll workers to voting sites.
“The MTA has conducted unprecedented outreach to 25,000 poll workers through an email, text and robocall program. We have enhanced overnight bus service 150% during the overnight closure of the subways and have been moving thousands of essential workers every morning from 1 – 5 a.m. — tomorrow will be no different,” said MTA spokeswoman Abbey Collins.
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