By Sabina Mollot
With the General Election just days away, Council Member Dan Garodnick is calling on the Board of Elections to post signs at old poll sites that have been moved — as is a matter of city law.
The legislation in fact was authored by Garodnick and, after being signed by the mayor last year, went into effect in January. However during September’s primary, the first local election since then, it was clear that the new regulation wasn’t being followed, Garodnick said.
While he doesn’t remember how many complaints his office got, the lack of notice was stranding voters around the district. Making matters worse, some poll sites had been moved far from the original site, in one case a half mile away from the prior site.
Garodnick said he’d been hearing about this problem “periodically” over the years which is what prompted him to sponsor the legislation. “It’s everywhere,” said Garodnick. “Poll sites move constantly.”
Twenty percent of the city’s poll sites were moved from 2016 to 2017, according to a recent WNYC report, affecting 200,000 voters.
Usually the reason for a poll site to move is related to lack of accessibility. As for when sites are moved very far from their original locations, Garodnick suggested this could be avoided if the board would work with him on finding more convenient alternative sites.
“But we need their cooperation in this situation and we’re not getting it,” he said. “They didn’t comply (during the primary) and we see no indication that they’re going to comply on November 7.”
The board does send mailed notices to voters before an election that include information about poll sites moving, but in Garodnick’s view, this isn’t enough since many people would just assume they’re junk mail.
“They send mailers which for most New Yorkers go immediately in the trash,” he said.
This, he guessed, is because usually poll sites remain in the same location for many years so people wouldn’t expect them to change. “Why would they? That’s why they throw out the notices and go to their regular polling sites.”
Local Law 62 made it mandatory for the BOE to post a notice near the entrance of any poll site that’s been closed but was active within the previous four years with information about where the new site is and BOE’s online poll site locator (nyc.pollsitelocater.com).
After the primary, Garodnick penned a letter asking the BOE to make sure notices for sites were ready by November 7, but said in a response on October 5, the BOE said it would not.
“The Board of Elections cannot pick and choose which laws it follows,” the Council member said on Wednesday in front of City Hall, while flanked by election law advocates.
Assembly Member Brian Kavanagh, who is running for a downtown State Senate seat, said it was “imperative” that the BOE “fix this in advance of Tuesday’s election.”
Town & Village reached out to a spokesperson for the BOE but did not hear back by press time.