Friday, November 22, 2019

Has the city learned its lesson about not holding early voting in schools, and are their assurances enough? The PTA at PS 116 says no.

As discussed on this blog earlier, 33 public schools were selected as early voting centers this fall in NYC, out of a total of 61 voting sites- though there were none selected in Queens and only one public school in the entire rest of the state.  One problem is that state election law allows other buildings to opt out from being a poll site, but does not give public schools the same authority.

Another problem was the fact that for some reason, the city proposed 168 schools out of a total of 222 potential sites to the Board of Elections earlier this year.

Putting early voting sites in schools caused serious security concerns as well as the loss of lunchrooms, auditoriums and gyms in many schools for a full school week. According to Brigid Bergin of Gothamist, there will be four elections in New York City next year.  If early voting continues to be held in schools, this would cause a total of 20 days in which these conditions would prevail, including during one week when schools are required to administer the state tests.

Because of the widespread criticisms of many parents and concerns expressed by principals about the risks and disruption caused by early voting in schools, the Mayor has apparently learned a lesson, and now city officials say that they will make an effort to see that no school is an early voting venue in the future, according to Gothamist/WNYC:

“We’ve heard from parents, we’ve heard from principals and we think there is a better way,” Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune, the city’s Chief Democracy Officer....If you look at the borough of Queens, no schools were used for early voting... We see cultural institutions, we see community centers, we see CUNY. Those are the institutions that should be used for early voting,” she added.

But this is not good enough for many parents, including those at PS 116.  Though they support early voting in general, their children suffered through the first round of early voting this year, and they want schools legally barred from being identified as early voting sites altogether.

Below is the testimony of Erica Rand Silverman, the PTA president of PS 116, given at a joint Assembly/Senate hearing on early voting on November 20. If you'd like to learn more and/or join the campaign to end early voting in NYC public schools, you can email their PTA at

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