In a borough with painfully low voter turnout, many residents would probably agree — anything hindering access to the polls is bad news.
Including being sent to the wrong address to vote.
Yet, Nick Napolitano says that’s exactly what happened. The Kingsbridge resident received a mailing from the city’s elections board earlier this month informing him his voting place had changed, listing the new location as the Manhattanville Health Care Center on West 232nd Street.
But when he checked it out later on a morning run, Napolitano discovered the address was an apartment building, not Manhattanville.
That’s because the health center actually is located a block south, on West 231st Street.
The confusion didn’t end there, however. According to the elections board’s website, the polling place for Napolitano pops up not at Manhattanville, but instead at P.S. 207 on Godwin Terrace — the same place he voted last year.
In fact, no voting is even scheduled at Manhattanville when primary voters head to the polls Thursday, Sept. 13, said Angela Hashash, who works in admissions.
It’s not clear why the board sent out a wrong address for Napolitano’s “new” voting place in the mailer, or how exactly the snafu occurred. But what is clear to some residents and grassroots political groups, there is a lot is at stake come Sept. 13, when voters have a chance to cast ballots as former Andrew Cuomo staffer Alessandra Biaggi tries to oust former Independent Democratic Conference leader Jeffrey Klein from his 34th District state senate seat.
The error was no small matter, said Klein spokeswoman Barbara Brancaccio.
“This is one of the most important elections of a generation,” she said. “It is critically important that voters have the correct information so that they can participate in the democratic process.”
To that end, Klein’s campaign set up a designated telephone number — (718) 684-2104 — for voters to call with questions about their polling site.
Two other voting sites further east also were moved, Brancaccio added, including Preston High School in Throgs Neck, and P.S. 105 Senator Abraham Bernstein in the Pelham Parkway neighborhood.
An alternative for Preston High School hadn’t been finalized as of Aug. 24, Brancaccio said, while some residents who’d previously been sent to P.S. 105 were told they should instead cast ballots at the Archimedes Academy for Math, Science and Technology Applications on White Plains Road in Clason Point.
Biaggi, meanwhile, called the elections board’s blunder “unfortunate.”
“We hope the Board of Elections can correct it, and any other similar errors, quickly,” Biaggi said, “so no one misses the chance to vote.”
And they did, said Valerie Vazquez-Diaz, an elections board spokeswoman.
“Once we were notified, we immediately sent out a corrected notice to the affected voters informing them that their poll site is P.S. 207,” Vazquez-Diaz said, indicating it’s the same place Napolitano voted last year.
Around 2,400 residents received the incorrect information, Vazquez-Diaz said, which she attributed to “a clerical error,” adding that with a couple of weeks to go before the primary “we do believe we’re providing (voters) with ample notice.”
The board mails out more than 4.5 million notices to all registered voters, Vazquez-Diaz added.
When Napolitano — who’s lived on Corlear Avenue since 2016 — first realized the error, he chuckled. It wasn’t until the following evening when he chatted with a neighbor about the primary that it hit home.
“We started talking about … how odd it was,” Napolitano said. “He made the connection for me.”
He was perplexed, but was glad that ultimately he didn’t have to wait until Sept. 13 to realize the mistake.
“But it’s a huge one,” Napolitano said. “If I went over to that place and had a limited time to vote, I wouldn’t walk another block or try to figure out what was going on. That’s my concern — that a lot of community members will go there and not have the time or the desire to try to untangle a mess and figure out what’s going on, if they go to the address on this mailing.”
And, even if it was an honest mistake, Napolitano said, it’s not something he can just brush off.
“It’s a shame, and would really, for me, raise concerns about the election if people weren’t able to vote,” Napolitano said. “That kind of disenfranchisement, even if it’s unintentional, is a big deal.”
With an entrenched incumbent running against a “pretty serious” primary challenger, Napolitano predicts, “New people might come out to vote that might not have been motivated to vote in a primary before.”
Although a full explanation for the gaffe never came, at least Napolitano knows where to go Sept. 13. He received another mailing last week sending him back to his polling place of yore.
But the larger question, Napolitano said, is how the slip even happened in the first place.
“It seems like if you make a mistake like that you should have to explain it, and then talk about how you would not let it happen again,” he said. “That seems fair.”