The city has changed nearly a dozen uptown polling sites just days before the upcoming primary, angering candidates who say the last-minute switcheroo could bungle elections.
“That will dramatically impact the turnout,” said state Sen. Adriano Espaillat, who is defending his seat against former City Councilman Robert Jackson.
“The practices implemented by BOE constitute voter suppression,” he added.
The city Board of Elections relocated polling sites for 31 electoral districts in Washington Heights, Inwood, Marble Hill, Harlem and Sugar Hill. An estimated 3,000 voters will be affected.
The original sites were noncompliant with the Americans With Disabilities Act of 1990, Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan said.
“We have strict ADA compliance rules that we have to follow,” he said. “This is a very highly regulated area of the law. We don’t want to move poll sites if we don’t have to.”
But the change-up is too close to the Sept. 9 primary and could cause widespread chaos in heavily immigrant communities, said former Assemblyman Guillermo Linares.
“Something so late in the process creates concern and confusion,” said Linares, who is running for the seat left vacant by Gabriela Rosa, who pled guilty to marriage fraud in June.
Others were worried voters may not learn of the changes in time.
“It is imperative upon BOE that they inform individuals of where the polling places are,” said Angela Fernandez, executive director of Northern Manhattan Coalition for Immigrant Rights.
Ryan said a federal court ruling in May required the Board of Elections to take greater responsibility when it comes to ensuring accessibility.
That forced all but one of the polling site switches uptown, he said, adding that voters were notified of the polling changes by snail mail and can find their correct sites online.
Workers will also be on hand at polling locations on Election Day to redirect voters.
“BOE has the responsibility to make it easy for voters to get to the polls, not harder,” Espaillat said. “This is outrageous stuff.”