After a federal three-judge panel handed down the decision for the redrawn NY congressional district lines in March 2012, not only did it change the configuration of several congressional districts, it also reduced the number of electoral districts (EDs).
Consequently, this change reduced the number of polling sites across the state. In Bedford-Stuyvesant, the number of EDs dropped from 120 down to 90.
What that has meant is several hundred would-be voters may be heading out to their normal polling site to find it no longer there.
Letters went out two weeks ago to alert residents to this change. But is concerned that even with a letter, a large number of residents will remain unaware.
He fears the move will disenfranchise hundreds, maybe thousands, of Bed-Stuy voters, particularly the handicapped and elderly who may be challenged with having to travel further distances in order to vote.
“Whether it’s intentional or not, these sort of changes result in voter disenfranchisement,” said Cornegy. “Even in the best case scenario, you are going to lose some voters, with that much movement. The reason I’m pointing out the senior center, is because it’s a mass problem. But really people are screaming across the district.”
P.S. 308, for example, for years has accommodated the residents of the , located right across the street. For the primaries in September, the polling site at will be closed and collapsed into P.S. 57, four blocks away.
“Anytime there’s confusion this close to an election that’s inhibiting a group of people, in my mind it rings of voter suppression and all of those things protected under the Voting Rights Act,” Cornegy said. “We can nice it up, but you have to call it what it is.”
However, the collapsing of polling sites is not isolated to one group, nor one neighborhood nor one borough for that matter. The entire city will be dealing with the identical issue.
Valerie Vazquez, communications director at the Board of Elections, said a citywide information notice went out to every registered voter informing them of election dates, information on how to use the new voting system and a bold announcement on the letter about whether a voter’s polling site has changed.
“This year, we redesigned the letter in several languages: It says Your poll site may change. We say in bold lettering where their poll site is located in the ED,” Vazquez told Bed-Stuy Patch. “It’s a simple format designed for them to cut it out and put it in their wallet or keep on their refrigerator.
“As far as seniors and the handicap, they can call the BOE and express a concern, if they have one, and we will do what we can to accommodate them, whether that be changing their poll site to a closer location. Or if they’re home-bound, they can request an absentee ballot.”
Cornegy on Tuesday met with Mary Rose Sattie, deputy chief clerk at the BOE. He said, he explained to her about Quincy Senior Center and a few other locations where senior residents were concerned about being able to travel to the site.
Sattie agreed to move the site back to its original location in front of the Quincy Senior Center for the general election in November. But because BOE needs a 30-day notice for proposed poll site changes, the site of the primary election will remain at the newly assigned location.
In the meantime, Cornegy has made arrangements with Quincy Center to charter a bus for the seniors to the new polling site.
As a registered voter, have you received a notice in the mail about a new or changed polling site? And do you feel these changes amount to voter disenfranchisement and voter suppression?
If you have not received a mailed notice, you may go to the BOE’s website where there is a poll locator to drop in your address and find out your new site. Also, in September, the BOE plans to release a new free app that allows voters to get that same information right from their phones.
Or if you have questions or concerns about your current polling site, you can call 866-vote-nyc, to speak to a trained phone bank staff.