As you might have noticed, the New York State Legislature and Governor Cuomo approved early voting this year. Although I voted in favor of it, during the discussion on the bill I highlighted concerns about using school buildings as polling sites. I urged my colleagues to be mindful about the impact it may have on students, staff and the overall operation of schools.
I reinforced the safety concerns that arise when New York City Department of Education’s protocol of requiring photo identification for entry is suspended. Throughout the school year those entering a school are required to provide photo identification to the school safety agent to properly document those entering. During elections, those protocols are suspended as voters are allowed to enter a school polling site without providing identification.
In addition, I explained that during election days students are often displaced from their cafeterias, libraries, and gymnasiums. Prior to Early Voting that would be for two or three days as voting equipment was installed and removed and the primary and general election were conducted. Early Voting has extended that time period to nine days of early voting and the actual primary and general election. During the November 2019 election period that resulted in a total of 12 days, seven of which are student attendance days at the 33 schools designated as early voting sites.
Early Voting Numbers
Citywide, 60,110 of the approximate 4.7 million registered voters visited an early voting site during this inaugural event. Only 4,247 Staten Islanders out of the 319,473 registered voters ventured to an early voting site. New York City students at 33 schools were locked out of their cafeterias, gymnasiums and school libraries for more than a week so that 1.4% of registered voters could cast a vote. Mayor de Blasio allocated $75 million for early voting. Based only on that $75 million, each early vote cost $1,247.71.
2020 Primary and
The 2020 Election cycle will have an even greater impact on our schools. It will begin with the April 2020 Presidential Primary Election, in which early voting will take place April 18-26. During this period the New York State grade 3 to 8 Mathematics exams are scheduled to be administered (April 21- 23and make-up testing April 24-26).
The June 2020 state and local elected office Primary Early Voting will take place June 13-21 with Primary Day on June 23rd. The General Early Voting will be held October 24-November 1, with the General Election Day on November 3. That will result in upwards of 15 days of students and staff being displaced from cafeterias, gymnasiums and school libraries if other non-school alternative Early Voting sites are not designated.
I have urged City Hall, the Board of Elections and my colleagues in city and state government to work together to identify alternative Early Voting sites to ensure safety and minimal disruption to our children’s education.
By Michael Reilly, NYS Assemblyman, previous District 31 Community Education Council President and former NYPD Lieutenant.
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