As the chaos from coronavirus has understandably pushed things like the elections from the forefront of people’s minds, poll workers, who ordinarily would be training for upcoming elections right about now, are questioning why the city won’t make the move to mail-in ballots.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s recent executive order to reschedule the elections until June 23 gave the city more time to comply with shelter-in-place and physical distancing. It didn’t really tell people how they would be voting in June.
Many election officials upstate are calling for the state to at least allow more absentee ballots for those who are sick or not willing to leave the house.
“I don’t care who people are rooting for, I just want it to be safe. Most of them [poll workers] are elderly or retirees,” said Caroline Fidel, a poll site manager that lives in Crown Heights.
She’s especially concerned with the seniors on staff that’ll be affected if they have to come into work since they make up a large portion of poll workers. In addition to that, Fidel recognizes the dangers of a lot of people traveling to different parts of the city to get to their poll sites. Fidel did note that the Mayor’s office made an effort to respond to her concerns about the elections.
“We already have the addresses. We have the information from when they go to vote. By that logic we should be able to send them mail-ins,” said Fidel.
Meaghan Sara Karre, who’s been a poll worker since 2016, is usually placed at the Bushwick Public Library for her poll site. Poll sites like schools and libraries are effectively closed. Karre said she truly doesn’t get how this process will work if everyone’s expected to stay away from one another, and there’s been little communication from higher-ups about it.
“Mail-in options would be the safest option,” said Karre, “I’m thinking of voters who would not show up to vote if they’re concerned about crowds.”
Similar questions were asked about this year’s census, which inevitably resulted in mailing New Yorkers codes so they could then finish the survey online. Room in the state budget was even allotted for additional funding to make sure the census is completed, said the governor’s office last week.
“We all want to see democracy happen. We need to learn to be more flexible, we need to get creative with things. And that’s kind of all that poll working is about,” said Karre.
John Newton is a poll worker at Pete Mcguinness Senior Center on Leonard Street in Greenpoint.
He said, “Even if we peak somewhere in April it’ll still be a problem in June. I think the ideal solution would be to move to complete mail-in ballots.”
The city’s Board of Elections has yet to respond with comment.