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NYC elections board scrambles to secure 38 early voting sites

The mayor had set aside $75M to operate 100 locations in 2019 and 2020.

The city will be instituting early voting, beginning

The city will be instituting early voting, beginning in November.  Photo Credit: Marisol Diaz-Gordon

City Council members chided the city Board of Elections when its leadership testified Tuesday that the inaugural rollout of early voting in November may be problematic.

BOE Executive Director Mike Ryan said his team has been scrambling to meet the state's requirement that it allow voters to cast ballots during the nine days preceding all upcoming elections.

Ryan said the board is working on finalizing where voting will occur, what ballots will be used and how much is needed to finance the operations — and he stressed there will be kinks to work out this November. 

“The worst thing we can do is get overly ambitious and not have it work and undermine voter confidence,” Ryan said.

Ryan said the BOE has so far identified 38 sites that will host early voting — four more than the 34 minimum locations required by the state. The board voted and approved those sites later on Tuesday.

Ryan said the BOE received several letters from owners and operators of facilities that have historically been used as poll sites in which they declined to host voters for nine consecutive days before the general election. Many cited staffing and cost concerns, he said.

John Conklin, a spokesman for the state Board of Elections, said the city could amend its polling site number at a later date.

Mayor Bill de Blasio said he hopes the board opts to expand the early voting opportunities. He announced on Monday that he had set aside $75 million in his budget proposal for the BOE to funnel into operating 100 early voting sites during the 2019 general election, the 2020 presidential primary and the 2020 June primary.

De Blasio tweeted his frustrations with the board's early voting roster after the BOE's vote Tuesday.

"Here come the excuses. The Board of Elections is already shortchanging New Yorkers at the polls," de Blasio tweeted.

The mayor tweeted at the board that it had until May 29 to locate a total of 100 sites.

"We put up the money. Now. Do. Your. Job," de Blasio tweeted. 

A spokeswoman for the city's Board of Elections declined to comment on the mayor's tweets. At the council hearing, Ryan said the board had not yet discussed the mayor's proposal. 

Ryan said he is reviewing the early voting regulations released by the state Board of Elections on Monday, and hopes to have a budget and plan for early voting in the next couple of weeks, since election worker training is slated to begin in July. 

Ryan said the board may use a ballot-on-demand system, where a ballot customized by election district is printed for voters as they arrive at the polls. He added the BOE would like to create an internal team tasked with coordinating early voting apart from staff handling general Election Day operations. 

City Councilman Mark Treyger said the board's timeline was not satisfactory, given that the state approved early voting in January. 

“Nothing stopped the Board of Elections from conducting a study or analysis already,” Treyger said.

The story has been updated to reflect an update provided by the Board of Elections later Tuesday about the number of early election sites. 

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