While voters are used to going to the polls on a Tuesday, the upcoming state primary election will take place on a Thursday in September. With Sept. 11, which marks the anniversary of the 2001 terrorists attacks, falling on what would be a regular Election Day for state primaries, the Legislature changed the poll date to Sept. 13. The work has now begun to get the word out.
New voters looking to register for primary and state local elections can register in person by Aug. 24 or mail their registration postmarked by Aug. 17 and received by Aug. 24. To vote in the primary election, a voter must be registered as a member of the party holding the primary prior to the primary. A change of party enrollment received no later than 25 days before the election will be deposited in a sealed enrollment box and opened the first Tuesday following that election and entered in the voter’s registration record.
With the lack of information sent out about the last primary election, which took place in June, the Board of Elections has said that this time a mailer will be sent to voters informing them of the change. The Board of Elections was heavily criticized by elected officials last month for not sending out a mailer about redrawn district lines, a result of the 2010 Census, which left many voters confused about where to go.
Some accused the resulting confusion of being a form of voter suppression. Voters reported being turned away from the polls, particularly in the Bronx, and were given little if any information on where to go to cast their ballots.
The Board of Elections blamed a lack of funding as a factor for not sending out a mailer at that time. However, in September, the Board of Elections will send out a mailer with the crucial information voters need.
“We are sending out a legally required information notice to all voters in the first week of August,” said Board of Elections spokeswoman Valarie Vazquez. “It will inform the voter of the date of election, complete notes about their redesigned district and information about if their polling site has changed.”
Vazquez added that the mailer will be a glossy, more “voter-friendly” mailer that will arrive in several languages with information about how to use scan voting machines. The Board of Elections is also taking out advertisements in citywide and ethnic newspapers, and voters can access voter information online at vote.nyc.ny.us.
However, the pain from June’s election is still being felt by many. According to the League of Women Voters (LWV), the Board of Elections might be to blame for the low voter turnout for that primary election. The local branch of the LWV has been doing its best as well to get the word out to remind voters about the new Election Day–so much so that they have sent a representative to commissioner meetings.
“The turnout was not the greatest in the few districts where there was a contested race,” said LWV special projects coordinator Laura Altschuler. “We did not think the Board of Election did as much as they could have done,” she said.
In their efforts to get the word out about the new Election Day, the LWV has information about the date change at the top of their website and is training voter registration volunteers to stress the new date to voters. Altschuler said the LWV has taken on the burden of receiving calls from voters inquiring about where to vote.
State Assemblyman and State Democratic Party Co-Chair Keith Wright told the AmNews that his office is also alerting voters about the new Election Day. He remains critical of how the Board of Elections handled the June primaries, which resulted in only 50,000 people voting in the highly contested 13th District race, according to Wright.
“The state and the city Board of Elections should have put some money behind a marketing campaign, he said. “The mayor could have written a check and helped an overburdened Board of Elections.”
Wright also said the claims of voter suppression during the June primary are “nonsense.” His title, along with that of former congressional candidate State Sen. Adriano Espaillat, affords him the ability to chose poll inspectors who were members of the community.
Though there is a change of date for the September primary election, the date for the general election remains the same and is set for Nov. 6. The deadline to register for the general election is Oct. 12.