The Black Leadership Action Coalition rallied outside the New York City Board of Elections Tuesday demanding restoration of voting sites at LeFrak City, contending the relocation of the polls is an act of voter suppression.
The voting booths had been removed because of complaints starting in 2008 that they were not in compliance with the American Disabilities Act, but were only recently relocated, giving little notice to LeFrak City residents who have been using the booths for more than 50 years.
“It is the duty of the Board of Elections to inform tenants of this move and grant the opportunity to make the locations more accessible, but they made no effort to do any such thing, and asked for zero input from the community,” Black Leadership Action Coalition Founder and President Bertha Lewis said. “With the primary in one month, this relocation is far too short of notice for residents. If this was such a big issue, why weren’t they moved last year or back in 2008 when the issues were first identified? This is just a political tactic designed to disenfranchise low-income people and people of color from the right to vote. This type of voter suppression is something we normally associate with the South and ultra-conservative politics, so you would think that in a city as diverse as ours, you would not see such an outrageous abuse of power.”
The LeFrak City complex houses nearly 25,000 resident and is considered to be partial to Hiram Monserrate in his City Council race with Assemblyman Francisco Moya (D-East Elmhurst) for the East Elmhurst seat. Lewis has endorsed Monserrate.
The Board of Elections did not respond to a request for comment by press time.
“The relocation of polling sites should never happen without getting input from residents of the affected community — and without letting them be involved in every aspect of the decision making process,” District Leader Geoffrey Davis said. “Doing anything less than that is de facto disenfranchisement.
Lewis called for alternatives to the relocation of the voting booths a half mile away. She suggested several fixes to make the sites ADA compliant, including increased voting sites within LeFrak City to reduce the number of people at each site and a change in the wheelchair ramps.
“Instead of using the disabled as a cover for their political game, we at BLAC, along with other community groups, are willing to work with the New York City Board of Elections to find a way to keep the District 21 polling site within LeFrak City for the upcoming election and to develop a permanent solution to the problem. This does not just affect one election or one party. Everyone should be concerned about such an outrageous and blatant attempt at voter suppression.”
Lewis also called for a joint investigation by the state Board of Elections and the Civil Rights Division of the U.S. Department of Justice.
Reach reporter Bill Parry by e-mail at bparr