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Voting concerns arise ahead of election season

Board of Elections officials demonstrate how to use the machine.
TimesLedger Newspapers

Queens elected officials say redistricting is causing confusion in the voting public.

City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria) said his office has received numerous phone calls from residents who cannot figure out exactly where they are supposed to vote.

“One day they can vote around the corner, the next day they have to vote a half mile away,” said Vallone. “People are now noticing and realizing how bad redistricting was for the community. There was no regard for cohesion with the communities — it was all politically motivated.”

Councilwoman Elizabeth Crowley (D-Middle Village) said the city Board of Elections sent out the wrong polling site to residents in her district — and it even sent the wrong site to the councilwoman’s office.

“A week from now, voters from all over the city may be going to the wrong polling sites because the Board of Elections mailed them the incorrect information,” she said. “Government should be providing ways to encourage people to vote, but by assigning the wrong poll sites, the BOE is making the process confusing and difficult, which could lead to voters staying home.”

Crowley said he urges voters to call the board and double check their poll site.

Polling places across Queens were shifted after the borough faced redistricting, but some were moved because of a lack of handicapped accessible sites.

Valerie Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the city Board of Elections, said polling sites have to be 100 percent accessible, which is why many sites were moved. She said anyone with concerns about polling sites should call 1-866-VOTE-NYC or visit vote.nyc.us.

Vazquez confirmed 51 polling sites in Queens were changed because of handicap accessibility issues.

Redistricting and accessibility are not the only issues the Board of Elections is facing for this primary season.

After it took election officials more than 10 days to certify the results in a heated June primary race between U.S. Rep. Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) and state Sen. Adriano Espaillat (D-Manhattan), the BOE announced it would adopt a new process to tabulate votes starting with next week’s election.

The new process allows the board to count unofficial Election Night returns using memory sticks, or portable memory devices, in the new voting machines. The devices would be removed from the machines at the end of Election Night and taken back to police precincts, where the data would be uploaded and reported to the public, according to election officials.

The board had previously counted votes manually based on its interpretation of state election law. Even with the upgrade, the board will still manually count votes as a backup.

Earlier this month, the City Council met with members of the BOE to express its displeasure with the board’s handling of the June primary and its worry about the board’s ability to tally results for the upcoming primary as well as the Nov. 6 presidential election.

Dawn Sandow, deputy director of the BOE, said she believes the board performed well during the June primary and does not foresee any issues with upcoming elections.

Reach reporter Steve Mosco by e-mail at smosco@cnglocal.com or by phone at 718-260-4546.

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