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Bed-Stuy Voters Outraged Over Mysteriously Shuttered Poll-Site

By Sonja Sharp | November 6, 2012 5:20pm

BEDFORD-STUYVESANT — No voting here today.

That was the sign that greeted hundreds of longtime voters in Bedford-Stuyvesant who say they were inexplicably locked out of their assigned polling place at PS 44 on Tuesday and forced to cast their ballots at overcrowded election sites elsewhere.

"This area wasn't hit at all by the storm," said voter Cynthia Hernandez, who was among those shunted to PS 305 several blocks away. "It's a mechanism to to suppress people from voting, but in Bedford-Stuy you see people coming in wheelchairs, coming in walkers — they can't even walk and this is what you do to them?"

The Board of Elections could not immediately explain why a polling place so far from the path of the storm would be shut while voters from hard-hit districts were scrambling to find a place to cast their ballots.

"We called the number on the elections website and they confirmed that we could vote here," said voter Karen Swoopes-McConnell, who is registered on Long Island. "We can't get to where we're registered."

Those who normally vote at PS 44 were similarly assured their vote would count if they balloted at PS 305 instead. But the closure rankled many in the historically black neighborhood, which boasted a nearly 70 percent turnout in the last presidential election.

"I thought, well, they're at it again," said longtime resident V. Harvey, 66. "They're trying to discourage us."

Resident Yahnick Martin, 34, said he received a notice to vote at PS 44, his regular polling place, just weeks before the election. Although he had little trouble making it to PS 305, he said he was outraged the Board of Elections hadn't done more to explain the situation to anxious voters.

"There's no explanation," Martin said. "They're using it as a deterrent for people to vote."