November 6, 2012 — Because many New York City neighborhoods, in particular Manhattan’s Chinatown, were ravaged by Hurricane Sandy, the New York City Board of Elections changed the location of numerous poll sites, as recently as Monday evening before the election. On Monday, Nov. 5, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 62, allowing voters in federally declared disaster areas to cast affidavit ballots at any polling place in New York State. The voter’s choices for President, U.S. Senator, and other candidates in the voter’s home district, were to be counted on affidavit ballots.
However, the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF), which monitored election poll sites in New York as part of its national poll monitoring and exit polling program, observed numerous poll workers ignoring the Executive Order and giving incorrect instructions to voters.
Incidents occurred at Confucius Plaza, P.S. 1, I.S. 131, and P.S. 126 in Manhattan’s Chinatown and at St. Andrews School in Flushing, Queens, where poll workers refused to give out affidavit ballots to voters, saying that voters should return to their assigned poll sites. In Chinatown, poll workers were unaware that they had the translated Chinese provisional ballots, and an AALDEF volunteer had to ask several times for these ballots to be provided. In Flushing, Queens, at the St. Andrew’s School site, elderly Korean American voters were turned away by an interpreter. AALDEF also received reports that poll sites in Flushing complained that they were running out of affidavit ballots and envelopes.
In Elmhurst, Queens, elderly Chinese American voters arrived at the Newtown High School poll site and were directed to go elsewhere, rather than given provisional ballots. They left without voting. AALDEF called in complaints to the Board of Elections on behalf of these voters.
In Jackson Heights (P.S. 69), for a period of about three hours, poll workers were unsure about Governor Cuomo’s new order and denied that voters could vote via affidavit ballot at any site. AALDEF volunteers observed at least 20 Asian American voters who were sent away.
“It’s a shame that despite the state’s efforts to accommodate voters who were displaced by Hurricane Sandy, many displaced voters, particularly Asian Americans, encountered barriers to the vote,” said Glenn D. Magpantay, Director of AALDEF’s Democracy Program.
Ujala Sehgal, Communication Coordinator
Glenn Magpantay, Democracy Program Director
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