City budget commits $75 million to provide early voting at 100 poll sites
Mayor de Blasio today hosted elected officials and advocates at a rally demanding that the Board of Elections make Early Voting easy for New Yorkers. The Mayor urged the BOE to use $75 million dedicated in the Executive Budget to open 100 early voting sites, ensuring no New Yorker has to travel far to cast an early ballot this November. Early voting requires the BOE to offer New Yorkers the opportunity to vote for nine days prior to Election Day. In addition to helping seniors, people with disabilities, parents and people who have a difficult work schedule, early voting can potentially help prevent long lines, confusion and broken ballot machines on Election Day, which New Yorkers experienced in the 2018 General Election.
The Mayor sent a formal letter to the BOE urging them to put forth a robust early voting plan. The letter can be found here.
“We now have a real opportunity in New York to strengthen our democracy and drive up participation in our elections,” said Mayor Bill de Blasio. “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. I want to thank the Chairs of the Committee on Elections, State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assembly Member Charles Lavine, as well as the rest of the legislature for approving early voting – a crucial electoral reform that will make voting easier. Our message to the Board of Elections is simple: get early voting right.”
“Early voting empowers New Yorkers who traditionally have a hard time getting to the polls on Election Day,” said Deputy Mayor for Strategic Policy Initiatives J. Phillip Thompson. “Whether you’re a senior, parent or just someone with a tight work schedule, the Board of Elections must do right by you. We’re giving the Board of Elections enough funding to come up with a robust early voting plan that can touch every community. Providing early voting at less than 100 poll sites will be completely dismissive of what New Yorkers need and deserve to participate in our democracy.”
“DemocracyNYC was founded to increase public engagement in our democratic process. Giving every New Yorker a voice means making elections more fair and accessible, and early voting is a critical step toward achieving this goal. I want to thank Chairs Myrie and Lavine for their leadership in passing early voting in the State Legislature, and for their unwavering commitment to election reform. I strongly encourage the Board of Elections to establish a robust, accessible and equitable early voting program,” said Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, New York City’s Chief Democracy Officer.
In the most recent legislative session, the State passed crucial electoral reforms to make voting easier for New Yorkers, including consolidating state and federal primaries, authorizing the use of electronic poll books and providing early voting for nine days prior to election day. In his Fiscal Year 2020 Executive Budget, the Mayor allocated $96 million for these reforms, including $75 million to provide early voting for three election cycles in 2019.
The State legislation requires the BOE to provide early voting at a minimum of 34 poll sites. However, the Mayor’s funding commitment allows the BOE to go beyond the minimum requirements of the law. Each of the three upcoming elections will receive $25 million to designate a total of 100 sites. Specifically, the funding will cover the 2019 November General Election, 2020 Presidential Primary and the 2020 June Primary.
The Mayor’s $75 million investment also includes funding for dozens staffers at each of the 100 poll sites across New York City. Early voting begins October 26 through November 3. There are countless libraries, schools, senior and community centers, including NYCHA community centers, which have previously been used as poll sites.
The BOE has a long history of providing the bare minimum when administering elections, as illustrated by their interpretation services. The BOE currently provides interpretation services in certain poll sites in Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Bangla, as required by the Voting Rights Act. The BOE has the authority to go beyond what is required by law to provide additional interpretation services to additional limited English proficient New Yorkers but has not done so. In the face of their inaction, the Administration has previously filled a gap across communities by providing interpretation services at poll sites in an additional six commonly spoken languages among limited English proficient eligible voters. These languages include Russian, Haitian Creole, Italian, Arabic, Polish and Yiddish, among others.
In February, the BOE sued the City to bar City interpreters from being placed inside poll sites to make voting easier for limited English Proficient New Yorkers. A judge denied the BOE’s request for a preliminary injunction, allowing the City to move forward with its plan to place interpreters inside 48 poll sites in Brooklyn and Queens for the Public Advocate Special Election. The BOE’s lawsuit against the City is ongoing. At the rally, the Mayor denounced the BOE’s attempt to make voting harder for limited English proficient New Yorkers.