COVID-19 to affect upcoming local primary elections

Councilman Ritchie Torres’ office was closed after he tested positive for the virus.
Photo by Miriam Quin
Councilman Ritchie Torres’ office was closed after he tested positive for the virus.Photo by Miriam Quin

In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, local elected officials and political first-time runners are scrambling to come up with contingency plans in order for this year’s primaries to move forward on April 28 as well as keep their own represented communities afloat.

Some local officials like Assembly member Jeffrey Dinowitz have recently put out statements in favor of requesting absentee ballots for New York voters.

In a press release, Dinowitz said, “I submitted a bill on Friday, March 6 which would allow registered voters in New York to request an absentee ballot due to concern about coronavirus. This would apply to the April and June primary elections. We have already begun the process to amend our state constitution to allow absentee voting for any reason, and I believe this is a natural extension of that concept.”

Other assembly members like Michael Blake support similar measures like the absentee ballot due to the virus.

Assembly member Blake said petitioning is not viable option in this time where no one wants to be knocking on doors, let alone talking to others face to face.

“This will change campaigning forever,” Blake said. “Everyone is going to have to be more creative and strategic in getting ahold of the people of New York and across the U.S.”

Blake, representing the 2nd biggest section of public housing in the city, said he is focusing on local small business relief and working with the federal government to finance a $1 billion stimulus, which, according to Blake is a part of a 15 point plan.

Blake also said he is working with a company, World Central Kitchen, to provide 5,000 meals to Bronx residents daily.

“This is why you elect us,” Blake said. “To be responsive in challenging times.”

Another Bronx assembly member Natalia Fernandez helped pass a bill (A9953) earlier this month approving a $40 million surge into the medical field to ensure sufficient supplies and training for healthcare workers in the case of an wide spread outbreak.

“The money will be used to purchase medical equipment and supplies as well as hire and train additional health care workers to ensure New York State is fully prepared in the event this virus spreads,” Fernandez said in a statement.

Senator Alessandra Biaggi, is introducing a bill to request for absentee ballots during this time of quarantine.

Senator Biaggi issued a statement containing the following:

“There are many older New Yorkers and those with underlying health conditions in my district who are at a heightened risk from the virus – they should not have to choose between safeguarding their own health and fulfilling their civic duty. Nor should New Yorkers who are in quarantine be denied their right to participate on Election Day.”

For some New York politicians, like Michele Caruso-Cabrera, running for a congressional seat against Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, are determined to not let the pandemic hinder their political efforts.

” The American political system must press on. I am committed to participating at the Parkchester Debate against my opponent Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez April 7, 6-8PM Bronx Community Board 9. Our debate should use the same COVID19 precautionary measures as tonight’s Presidential debate,” said Caruso-Cabrera in a press release last Sunday.

As Bronx Times attempted to contact local assembly members in their respected offices, the majority are working remotely, but keeping their constituents and communities updated through newsletters and social media.

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