Urgent: Adopt Mail-in Ballots for New York's Primary Election
The coronavirus has thrown the calendar into chaos, and Caro Fidel, a poll worker for the Brooklyn Board of Elections, is sounding the alarm on an impending deadline for changing the date of the upcoming election that could result in poll workers being put in danger. — Editor
We're going through a lot (understatement) and it's hard to focus on anything right now. But for the next 24 hours, I need you to focus on this.
I'm sure you have read countless posts and seen the videos from elected officials in all branches of government about how we failed to properly prepare for this virus. We can prevent at least one failure by fighting for New York to adopt mail-in ballots.
I'm a poll worker and poll site coordinator in Brooklyn. Otherwise, I'm a freelance artist. The only upcoming income I have is after working this election. I would rather give that up for the safety of my fellow poll workers, the voters, and the rest of NY.
Thousands of poll workers are elderly. It's a 17 hour day. We arrive at 5AM in order to open the polls by 6AM. When the polls close at 9PM, we stay until at least 10PM uploading election results and cleaning the poll site. Imagine the state of our immune system throughout the day. Hospitals can't even get proper PPE — will we?
No one is asking us if we want to work an election that endangers our health, and for less than minimum wage. I've reached out to any poll workers whose contact information was still in my phone, and of those who replied, none think we will be safe working June 23rd.
The New York primary election was postponed to June 23rd, with the understanding that the deadline to change the format of the election is April 3rd.
A public election on June 23rd poses a risk to public health. Tom Perez, chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, said in a statement: "States that have not yet held primary elections should focus on implementing the aforementioned measures to make it easier and safer for voters to exercise their constitutional right to vote, instead of moving primaries to later in the cycle when timing around the virus remains unpredictable."
Holding this election in any physical capacity compromises the entire city. We will not meet the DNC's deadline, we will lose delegates, and we will be putting everyone in danger.
It isn't too late for mail-in ballots to be sent to all registered voters in New York. It would keep New Yorkers safe, and would easily meet the DNC deadline. It would use far less resources than a public election. There is already a system in place to send voter information before every election regarding their poll-site -- the same system can be used to send ballots to all voters registered as Democrats in the state of New York. This should go without saying, but voters should not have to provide postage when returning a ballot.
This isn't the fault of the DNC or the Board of Elections. The responsibility to change the format of the election to mail-in ballots falls to Governor Cuomo, and he must do so by April 3rd.
Stay home, be safe, and be kind — we all need it.
A first-gen Brooklyn native, Caro Fidel is a non-binary, multi-disciplinary printmaker. They are a poll worker for the Brooklyn Board of Elections, and a poll-site coordinator since 2018.