Election day was a great day for our nation, state, and county. We voted for our economy, our values and for our safety.
Aside, from the important reelection of President Obama; Maine, Washington State and Maryland passed marriage equality by popular vote and the people of Minnesota rejected a ballot initiative that would prevent marriage equality.
Massachusetts sent Elizabeth Warren to the Senate and the Wisconsin electorate spoke and denounced “legitimate rape” candidate Akin.
We won back the NYS State Senate.
We sent tea party darling Nan Hayworth packing and replaced her with Congressman Elect Sean Patrick Maloney.
And in Rockland:
The Young Democrats worked hard to ensure that we, to borrow the Rockland Democratic Party’s tagline, “Paint Rockland County Blue One Race at a Time”
The Young Democrats, managed campaigns, knocked on well over 1,000 doors, made over 3,000 phone calls, drove people to the polls and served as poll watchers in the county. We are already gearing up for 2013 and will stay FIRED UP!
But let's stay on this year:
- We decisively elected Congresswoman Lowey!
- We sent back NYS Senator Carlucci and NYS Assemblypeople Ellen Jaffee and Ken Zebrowksi.
- We are especially excited to have elected James Skoufis, a fellow Young Democrat to the NYS Assembly where he will represent parts of Orange County and Stony Point.
Tragically, not all was great yesterday. Below, I provide some critical concerns that I feel should be addressed by our leadership in Rockland County.
People of Color Turned Away:
There is a major problem in Rockland County when it comes to how we engage in our elections. I have noticed this for the past 2 years. From my perspective, there is a level of racism and anti-young people sentiment throughout the Rockland Board of Elections.
I have been trained as a poll watcher by the New York Democratic Lawyers Counsel, as well as having gone through the training at the Rockland Board of Elections. Last year, I worked as an election inspector in the primary election, and the year prior, I served as a poll watcher. I’m telling you this because I know the process and know how the process should be.
To set the stage, its about 10 a.m. on election day and I head over to my polling place to vote. There is a short line, three people in-front of me. Waiting to the side of line is a Latino couple. When I get to the front of line, I curiously ask the couple if they are on line and if they are having trouble voting.
The husband responds to me that he has voted but they are not allowing his wife. I asked his wife if she is registered to vote. Her husband had to help translate as English wasn’t her first language. She attested that she was registered to vote. I proceeded to tell the election inspector that they should provide her with an affidavit ballot because she is stating that she is a registered voter. I know in cases like this the Board of Elections will verify her status when they receive her affidavit ballot.
The election worker, then, asked me who I was. I stated my name and that I am member of the Rockland Democratic Committee. He then informed that he called the Board of Elections and they told him she is not allowed to vote. He then told her that she could A) bring back identification proving she can vote or B) go to New City and get an order from a judge to vote.
I told the election inspector that neither of these options where appropriate. I placed a phone call to Rockland Democratic Chairwoman Kristen Stavisky asking her to contact the Board of Elections. At this point, the election inspectors informed me that I would need to leave area because they are not allowed to speak with me.
After about 30 minutes waiting, phone calls, the intervention of our Democratic Chairwoman, the woman was able to vote. She was in fact registered. And I learned that was her first time voting as a US Citizen.
She was almost in tears and so thankful that she was able to vote. I too was happy that was able to vote. She is doing her civic duty as a citizen, which many of us who have lived here our entire lives do not.
What troubled me is that if I didn’t go to vote at that time that woman would have likely not voted. This is shameful. And my question then became--- why we needed such a large intervention for her to be able to vote---- which is her legal right.
Because this is my community, various voters who knew me asked what was going on. Republican families and Democrats. All of us were in shock.
So that was the start of my election day. And this was the first experience a new citizen had with our voting process. This is unacceptable. Changes must be made.
After I left voting, I called our Democratic Chair (and thanked her again for her leadership and help) and asked for poll watcher certificates so I can go to poll sites and see if other voters are being unfairly turned away. I witnessed a voter who was once registered purged from the roll, some voters turned away even when they claimed they were registered, and numerous people asked to show ID (which we can not ask for by law in NY State).
Its also not surprising that months ago NY Attorney General Eric Scheinerman sent a letter to the Rockland County Board of elections (one of 10 counties in which he wrote to) stating that they are not providing enough access for Spanish speakers. After the letter, it was reported that the Rockland Board of Elections would comply with the Voters Right Act, but I fear the injustice I witnessed calls that into question.
Young People Disenfranchised?
And at one polling location in Rockland students were being unfairly targeted. Quoting a Nov. 7 article published by lohud (http://www.lohud.com/article/20121107/NEWS02/311070095/Poll-problems-Yorktown-faced-power-outage-ballot-mixup-Harrison-site-closed):
"Another source of confusion was Gov. Andrew Cuomo’s executive order allowing voters forced from their homes by Sandy to vote by affidavit ballot at any poll site in the state.
Nyack resident Nisa Rauschenberg said she saw a group of Nyack College students argue with a poll inspector when they tried to ask for an affidavit ballot at the Hilltop administration building. The students said they were unable to get home to Brooklyn and Queens because of the storm. Some were granted affidavit ballots, and others were not.
Rockland Election Commissioner Ann Marie Kelly said the governor’s order applies to people “displaced by the storm — not students who decided at the last minute to vote.”
As the Co-President of the Rockland County Young Democrats, I find Ann Marie Kelly’s statement to be both insensitive to those affected by Sandy and to imply that young people are lazy and irresponsible.
I respectively call for a complete and comprehensive review of Board of Election practices/policies that are intentionally or unintentionally disenfranchising voters.