3:21 pm Nov. 4, 2012
As Mayor Michael Bloomberg was openly expressing doubt that the New York City Board of Elections could hold elections on Tuesday, one of the board's commissioners told me in an interview that the board had taken a number of precautions, including relocating 60 polling sites, in order to avoid a "disaster."
At a storm update in City Hall this afternoon, Bloomberg was asked if he thinks the board can successfully conduct an election in just two days.
"I have absolutely no idea," the mayor said, adding, "I can just tell you that we and the governor have tried to give them as much help as we can."
At the end of his remarks the mayor had repeated some of his usual criticisms of the board, including calling it "dysfunctional" for its inability to hire an executive director, but he toned down his rhetoric somewhat in his answer to the question. "I can't criticize them, I don't know what they're going to do," he said.
J.C. Polanco, a Republican board commissioner from the Bronx, said "obviously" for people in "devastated" neighborhoods like in Rockaway and on Staten Island, "the last thing some of the people are thinking about is voting, but we have to have a plan in place."
The election date could be changed, Polanco said, by an act from the governor and the legislature, but he did not say that was being offered or discussed.
The board has relocated 28 polling sites in Queens, 24 in Brooklyn, three in the Bronx, three in Manhattan and two on Staten Island. The board specifically avoided using tents, or so-called "super poll sites," that would lump as many as nine election districts into a single site.
No voting machines were affected, Polanco said. And the Board's 36,000 poll workers were ready to report to work on Tuesday. There's an additional 24,000 people in a reserve "pool" of workers the Board can call up, in case any poll workers do not show up, Polanco said.
Voters will be allowed to request and receive an absentee ballot, but only until 5 p.m. tomorrow, and it must be requested in person at the borough hall office in the borough where they live. Polanco said no form of identification is needed. (The only exception is for voters who registered by mail after the federal Help America Vote Act went into effect on January 1, 2003. Those voters may be asked for the last four digits of their social security number, driver's license or non-driver's ID.)
Councilman Dan Garodnick, who represents part of Manhattan's East Side, walked through polling sites in Stuyvesant Town and Peter Cooper Village with election officials yesterday afternoon. The polling sites there still have electricity, and didn't have to be relocated, but, as of now, they still lack heating.
"The question is how the Board of Elections is going to keep their poll workers warm?" Garodnick told me. "So, it becomes a question of the welfare of the poll workers."
"I raised it to them and it's unclear of how they will address it," Garodnick said.
When I mentioned this to Polanco, he said, "Our poll workers need to have heat, rest rooms" and other amenities and that "these are all things that were taken under consideration."
Before hanging up, I asked Polanco what he thought of this week's New Yorker cover, which showed a man waste-deep in water, with a flash light, looking at a poster telling him where to vote.
"I thought it was a very captivating cover," Polanco said. "It definitely caught my attention. But I hope it wasn't a jab at the Board."
Here is a list of affected poll sites.
You can text "NYCVOTES" to 877-877 to find your polling location.