Early voting is coming to New York City this fall but if you live in Bay Ridge, good luck finding a polling site within walking distance.
The New York City Board of Elections announced this week the 38 locations around the city it has chosen as places where voters will be able to vote on designated early voting days prior to Election Day. None of the sites are located in Bay Ridge, according to Democratic Councilmember Justin Brannan, who represents the neighborhood.
Brannan is outraged at the snub and said he wants the BOE to put early voting polling sites in the neighborhood.
“I am calling on the New York Board of Elections to fix this disgraceful omission and provide an early voting site in Bay Ridge for the 2019 election and every subsequent election. Why does the Board of Elections continue to make participating in our democracy disproportionately more difficult for Bay Ridge residents?” the peeved pol said.
Bypassing Bay Ridge hurts even more because the BOE is placing polling sites in surrounding neighborhoods, Brannan said.
“Sunset Park? Check. Bensonhurst? Check. Coney Island? Check. Bay Ridge? Put your walking shoes on. How is it possible that the Board of Elections can find early voting sites in nearly every neighborhood surrounding Bay Ridge, but nothing actually in Bay Ridge? This unofficial policy of telling Bay Ridge voters they don’t count needs to end now,” he said.
Brannan isn’t the only elected official pushing the BOE to do more.
Mayor Bill de Blasio appeared at a rally on Tuesday and said he wanted to see 100 polling sites for early voting.
The mayor said he dedicated $75 million in his Executive Budget toward the goal of opening 100 early voting sites and urged the BOE to use the money to ensure that no New Yorker would have to travel far to cast an early ballot this fall.
“We now have a real opportunity in New York to strengthen our democracy and drive up participation in our elections. However, to take advantage of this opportunity, the Board of Elections must abandon their age old practice of doing the bare minimum. They must do right by New Yorkers, and we’re giving them the funding to do it,” de Blasio said in a statement.
Early voting will help seniors, people with disabilities and people who have difficult work schedules, according to the mayor, who said it could also help prevent long lines at polling places and broken ballot machines on Election Day, which New Yorkers experienced to a great degree in the 2018 General Election.
Under New York’s new early voting law, a measure approved by the State Legislature earlier this year, the BOE is mandated to provide New Yorkers with the opportunity to vote for nine days prior to Election Day.
The original bill paving the way for early voting was sponsored by state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, a Democrat representing Crown Heights and parts of Park Slope and Sunset Park. Myrie is chairperson of the senate’s Election Committee.
BOE officials did not return messages from this newspaper.
But BOE Executive Director Michael Ryan defended the board’s decision to establish 38 sites in an interview with Spectrum News NY1.
“That does not mean that our work is finished. We are going to take input from the mayor, from the City Council, from community organizations,” he told NY1. “All I can say is it’s an ongoing process and we will continue to work with everyone to make sure an early voting program in New York City is done well and done effectively.”