Treyger calls on city to establish emergency voting plan
In the past 15 years, elections in New York City have been disrupted twice by cataclysmic events — the Sept. 11 terror attack, which took place on Primary Day, and Superstorm Sandy, which hit the East Coast a week before the 2012 General Election.
If a monumental event takes place again, New York’s voting apparatus should be prepared, according to Councilmember Mark Treyger (D-Coney Island-Gravesend-parts of Bensonhurst), who has introduced a bill that would mandate the Board of Elections to develop plans to ensure that election events are properly administered in case of a natural or manmade disaster.
The bill would order the Board of Elections to develop a plan in conjunction with the Office of Emergency Management (OEM) in the event that incidents such as extreme weather, natural disasters, states of emergency or acts of terrorism hinder the ability for people to vote.
The plan would include a report specifying who is responsible for completing certain tasks, what financial and labor resources would be required, which other agencies’ assistance would be necessary to conduct an election and what other steps would need to be taken in order to limit the disruption of an election.
There were several problems at the 2012 general election, held a few days after Superstorm Sandy, according to Treyger, chair of the council’s Committee on Recovery and Resiliency.
Treyger said that while Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order enabling storm-impacted New Yorkers to vote via affidavit ballot at all polling locations, the order wasn’t administered until a day before the election. Poll workers were not properly trained about the executive order and some refused to accept affidavit ballots, Treyger said.
Other polling sites ran out of affidavit ballots and envelopes, he said.
“We have to make sure that the democratic process is able to proceed, even when dealing with a crisis. Hundreds of thousands of people were affected in 2012 when Hurricane Sandy hit about a week before Election Day, and voter turnout suffered. There is no question that in an emergency situation, the first priority is safety. But that does not mean we should forget about one of the most important aspects of American life. Voting is not only our right; it is our duty,” Treyger said in a statement.
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