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Tuesday, September 1, 2015
Primary '14

Only most dedicated show up for ballot

By Shant Shahrigian
Posted
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Grace Amoye votes in the 13th congressional district Democratic primary at Vladeck Hall on Van Cortlandt Park South on Tuesday.
Marisol Díaz/The Riverdale Press
Rep. Charles Rangel signs up to cast his vote on Tuesday morning at the Henry HighlandGarnet School, P.S. 175 in Harlem.
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Amalgamated Housing Cooperative resident Grace Amoye says she has regularly voted since becoming a U.S. citizen in 1987. 

Her participation in the Tuesday Democratic primary between Rep. Charles Rangel and his challengers put her in a decided minority. She was among just a few dozen voters who had come to the polling site at Vladeck Hall, located at 74 Van Cortlandt Park South, as of about 8:20 a.m.

Ms. Amoye, 77, nevertheless seemed unshaken in her devotion to voting.

“I’m being a good citizen,” the native of Jamaica said. “If you don’t [vote], you don’t effect changes.”

While final Board of Elections (BOE) numbers were not available, turnout in the Bronx part of the district appeared to be on track to be on par with, if not greater than it was in 2012, when state Sen. Adriano Espaillat first challenged Mr. Rangel.

An election observer said 567 people had voted at Vladeck Hall by the time balloting ended at 9 p.m. Ian Hoffmann, an observer for the good government group Common Cause said in 2012, 477 people came to the same site.

It was not clear how turnout in Upper Manhattan, where most of the 13th congressional district lies, would compare between this year and the last primary. In 2012, only 8.7 percent of all constituents showed up to vote.

The low turnout did not mean the day was devoid of color. During a Tuesday morning visit to Vladeck Hall, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz clashed with Mr. Hoffmann.

The observer told Mr. Dinowitz, who supports Mr. Espaillat, that he was electioneering too close to a voting site. Voting law restricts the handing out of flyers and similar activities to at least 100 feet away from voting sites.

“To have elected officials standing in front of a poll site with literature is clearly electioneering,” Mr. Hoffman said several hours after the clash.

While Mr. Dinowitz said he had pro-Espaillat materials in hand as he stood on the sidewalk just outside the entrance to Vladeck Hall, he insisted he was not electioneering, but chatting with people he knows from the neighborhood.

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Jeffreydinowitz

I appreciate some of the work Common Cause has done over the years. For example, they endorsed my National Popular Vote legislation that was passed this year and signed by the Governor.

There is also another, less good government side of Common Cause. It was Common Cause that drew and urged passage in 2012 of what I can only describe as race-based proposed assembly district lines. While the Bronx was entitled to 11 assembly districts, Common Cause advocated for district lines that had the Bronx sharing four districts with either Manhattan or Westchester. Had these lines become law it would have severely diluted the political power of the Bronx -- the most heavily minority county in the state. Instead of keeping neighborhoods together, they advocated for districts that ignored neighborhoods and instead were drawn based almost entirely on race or ethnicity.

They drew a district that threw Riverdale and Woodlawn in with northern Manhattan, a district that divided the northeast Bronx and put part of it into Westchester, a district that grouped part of the eastern Bronx with southern Westchester, and a district combining part of the South Bronx with East Harlem. Their efforts to chop up communities in favor of districts that were dominated by one demographic group were properly rejected. In fact, what they tried to do was a disgrace.

The individual from Common Cause that was mentioned in the article proudly claimed that it was their proposed Congressional lines that year that were adopted by the court and were widely praised. I'm not surprised that he was proud of those lines, but most people in our neighborhood would probably disagree. Those lines chopped up our community. Where Eliot Engel formerly represented the northwest Bronx, these lines ripped Van Cortlandt Village and Norwood from his district and threw them in with northern Manhattan. The Bronx former had three Congress members whose districts were majority in the Bronx, we now have one. So, Common Cause helped diminish the clout of the Bronx. And they are proud of that.

While their efforts to make sure that legitimate voters were not turned away from the polls is a good thing, the fact is that there have never been serious problems at the polling site in the Amalgamated, and there weren't this time either. I realize that sometimes when someone is sent in from Manhattan as a watcher he or she might have a large sense of self importance, but it was actually this watcher who was disruptive that day. Ironically, the people I was talking to on the street corner were also there on behalf of Common Cause. Attempting to intimidate or harass elected officials, or anyone for that matter, is certainly not consistent with efforts to run a smooth election.

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