Voters confused over changing polling sites in Queens

Jose Peralta

August 20, 2012

As reported by the New York Daily News: 

Queens voters and lawmakers are scratching their heads over a series of poll site changes for the Sept. 13 primary.

Voters say they have received multiple mailers from the city Board of Elections directing them to different polling sites.

In some cases, the new sites are far from their homes — presenting a challenge to elderly and disabled voters.

“I received a notice telling me to go to my regular polling place and then a week later another notice telling me to go to a school 10 blocks away,” said state Sen. Jose Peralta, whose office has been flooded with calls from voters. “I can walk but some seniors can’t travel that far. It’s an issue.”

Board of Elections officials said the changes were necessary because of redistricting — the mandatory rejiggering of legislative district lines every ten years — as well as handicapped-accessibility issues.

“Our poll sites have to be 100% accessible,” said Valerie Vazquez, a spokeswoman for the Board of Elections. “About 51 sites in Queens did not meet those requirements.”

Vazquez said the original mailers did warn voters their poll sites may have changed.

“Up until now, redistricting is something people have only read about,” said City Councilman Peter Vallone Jr. (D-Astoria), whose office has also been fielding calls from frustrated voters. “They are finally realizing that not only is their voting location changing, but more importantly the elected officials that they have been voting for and the neighborhoods that they have been involved in have been ripped away from them, and they are rightfully upset.”

After complaints from voters and elected officials, some sites were moved back to closer locations, Vazquez said said.

Assemblyman Michael Simanowitz (D-Flushing) and Councilwoman Karen Koslowitz (D-Forest Hills) pushed the board to change a plan that had some Briarwood residents travelling to PS 99 in Kew Gardens to vote, while sending some Kew Gardens voters to PS 101 in Forest Hills Gardens.

Non-residents aren’t allowed to park on the private streets of Forest Hills Gardens.

“It’s really outrageous,” said Andrea Crawford, chairwoman of Community Board 9 who lives in Kew Gardens. “PS 101 is a long walk and if you do have a car, you can’t park in the Gardens.”

Simanowitz said the Board of Elections staffers in Queens have been “very responsive” but are dealing with multiple issues.

“Hopefully this will all get ironed out before the November election,” he said.

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