NYC election board defends poll-site notifications

November 19, 2013 By Jarett Murphy, City Limits Brooklyn Daily Eagle, reporting by City Limits
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The New York City Board of Elections, responding to Election Day complaints by voters in Brooklyn that they hadn’t been notified about changes to polling sites, says it had every reason to make those changes — and took the necessary steps to let people know.

According to an “urgent message” on its website on Election Day, the Board of Elections changed the site of 145 election districts for the November vote. The changes affected two districts in Queens, 18 in Manhattan and 125 in Brooklyn. No sites in Staten Island or the Bronx were affected.

Several sites in Brownsville were affected, and on Election Day, poll workers and voters expressed frustration about the confusion caused by the changes. Some voters went to three or four voting sites before being able to cast their vote. They claimed not to have been informed of the change.

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But at least a few of them should have known better. The Board of Elections this week provided Brooklyn Bureau (of City Limits) with proof that a private mailing service confirmed notifications were sent in August to two of the people interviewed by the Bureau on Election Day. The BOE says both voters were informed that their old polling site, P.S. 327, was no longer active and that they would vote instead at the Betsy Head pool. What’s more, that change was made before the September 10 primary.

According to BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vasquez, the changes were made to make sure polling sites met accessibility standards.

“The Board of Elections is obliged follow the law which requires that poll sites be handicapped accessible,” she said in a statement. “Our poll site department worked to find good accessible sites to use in place of our non-accessible sites. In looking for sites, we asked public officials, community boards, political leaders and voters for suggestions.”

Vasquez continued: “It is regrettable we were not able to find convenient sites in every neighborhood, and are open to looking at new sites that may be suggested to us.  In some cases there will be changes before the next election cycle, where new, better or more convenient sites are found.”

But at least one election district in Brownsville shifted polling sites between the primary and the November 5 general election (the 65th Election District in the 55th Assembly District moved from the senior center on Dumont Street to P.S. 150 on Sackman Street), sewing confusion.

The BOE did not respond to requests for clarification on whether the other polling places shifted before or after the primary or the Oct. 1 runoff.

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