Neither storm nor polling site screwups could keep Bronxites from turning out for Tuesday’s elections.
With an 11-1 Democrat to Republican ratio in the borough, it wasn’t even a matter of close votes in any local contests, with incumbents and party-backed first-time candidates swamping the competition.
First time Assembly candidates Mark Gjonah of Morris Park/Allerton and Luis Sepulveda of Parkchester/Castle Hill won with high double-digit numbers, as did Andy King in a special election to fill the northeast Bronx City Council seat of federally convicted Larry Seabrook.
The contentious presidential race proved the impetus for long lines at the polls and at emergency voting sites set up near storm-damaged communities mostly in the northeast Bronx.
But the vote was not without some major bad-to-no planning by the city Board of Elections, with long-established polling sites moved, with only last minute notice to voters, many of whom showed up at their regular sites to find them closed.
Voters in Parkchester were frustrated and confused when four local polling sites were closed, with only notices – and no BOE workers – telling them to go another location blocks away, leaving many elderly and infirm trying to find transportation to the new site at the Van Nest Academy at 1640 Bronxdale Ave. near Morris Park Ave.
But many, like Zelideth Diaz Hatch, said they weren’t informed of the change.
“They never notified us,” said Hatch. “This is about losing our votes, people are getting discouraged.”
Others got an information card in the mail two weeks before the election after BOE officials determined the four Parkchester sites –1920 McGraw Ave., 2051 St. Raymond Ave., 1591 Metropolitan Ave., and 1380 Metropolitan Ave. – were not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, said Michael Rivadeneyra, legal counsel for Councilwoman Annabel Palma. Yet those same sites were used in the Sept. 13 Primary.
Palma and Assemblyman-elect Sepulveda organized buses to shuttle voters to the Bronxdale voting site.
Parkchester resident Anthony Quinones, 47, who showed up at the Van Nest school to vote said he had used the 1591 Metropolitan Ave. voting site for years.
“If it wasn’t for the presidential election, I would not have voted. It’s ridiculous!”
PS 175 on City Island, hard hit by SuperStorm Sandy, saw some of the highest voter turnout it’s had in years, according to poll watchers, with about 1,500 voters showing up by 6 p.m.
“City Island has always been a very patriotic and voting conscious community,” said one poll watcher who asked that his name not be used.
Marcia Pavlica, president of the Country Club Civic Association said a poll worker helping her at the Spencer Estate site told her the new voting machines “just keep eating paper and eating paper. They are going to be so fat.”
Pavlica joked with her “then they’re going to need Obamacare.”