New York Post: Top state Dem backs bill to increase NYC polling sites amid early voting debacle

Originally published in New York Post on October 29, 2020.

ALBANY — A top Democrat in the state Senate is backing legislation that would force the city’s embattled Board of Elections to expand its early voting program as outrage builds over hours-long lines Gothamites have battled to vote.

An investigation by the Post revealed Wednesday that the BOE failed to allocate equipment and anticipate the impact massive crowds would have on its systems, contributing to the massive delays at polling sites across the city.

The bill from State Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) would force the BOE to double the number of sites it provides to cast ballots during early voting in future elections. Currently, the BOE is required to provide one site for every 50,000 voters, which Gianaris’s bill would lower to one site for every 25,000.

“Boards of Elections failed to adequately provide enough early voting opportunities this year. All over the state, people have been waiting several hours to vote, which is not what our democracy should look like,” Gianaris argued, who waited over two hours in line at his polling site in Astoria, Queens to cast his ballot early for Democratic presidential nominee Joe Biden.

He’s not the only one pol who got stuck: New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio got stuck on line for 3 ½ hours at the Park Slope Armory Tuesday.

“The current structure of our Boards of Elections has failed to fulfill its primary mission of facilitating voting. Drastic reform is necessary,” Gianaris added.

New York’s early voting period runs from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1, ahead of the Nov. 3 General Election.

There are 88 early voting sites in the five boroughs this year, but under the proposal locations in Queens would move from the current 17 sites to 48, the Bronx would go from 17 to 33, Brooklyn from 27 to 66, Manhattan from 16 to 48 and Staten Island from 10 to 13.

The measure also has the backing of State Senate Elections Committee Chairman Zellnor Myrie (D-Brooklyn) — who has been advocating for in-person voting in light of an unreliable U.S. Postal Service.

“At a moment when our democracy is on the ballot, it is imperative that our laws do more to make voting easier and more accessible,” argued Myrie.

“I am grateful to the poll workers diligently managing the extraordinary turnout this year, but we must do more. As we heard during our Elections Committee hearings this year, and as we are seeing on the ground across our city, there is clearly a need for an even greater expansion of early voting to ensure everyone has access to the polls.”

The measure would need to pass both the state Senate and Assembly chambers and be signed into law by Gov. Andrew Cuomo before taking effect.

Both de Blasio and Cuomo have called for an overhaul of the Board of Elections, arguing its handling of early voting has been unacceptable and is in need of reform.

Gianaris’ bill comes as outrage continues to build over the hours-long waits to vote across the city, which violate the state election guidelines that require queues be 30 minutes or less.

The city Board of Elections voted Tuesday to extended early voting hours to try to get the lines back under control — with sites opening at 7 a.m. beginning Friday.

Since the start of early voting on Oct. 24, nearly 595,000 Big Apple residents have cast ballots, accounting for nearly half of the state’s 1.4 million early votes.