March 13, 2020 By Allie Griffin
The party-backed candidate in the Queens Borough president race, Council Member Donovan Richards, is calling on the city to postpone the March 24 special election.
Richards said the election should be postponed as voting itself poses a risk to voters and poll workers amid the coronavirus crisis in the city.
As of last count, there are 95 confirmed cases in the city and 17 in Queens.
Mayor Bill de Blasio declared a state of emergency Thursday but said the special election would go on during a press conference yesterday.
He acknowledged concerns about the election amid the growing number of COVID-19 cases — but said, “I want to be very, very clear that election will continue as scheduled.”
He said preserving our democracy — and in such, the special election — is crucial.
“We are dealing with an unprecedented challenge, but I think it is a signature of a stable democracy that elections happen when scheduled,” de Blasio said. “So, we very much want that election to happen on time so long as we believe it can happen effectively.”
He also urged all candidates to cease door-to-door canvassing immediately to limit in-person interactions that could heighten risks of COVID-19 spread.
Richards, however, said holding the election during the crisis would prevent Queens residents concerned about contracting the virus from voting.
“Our elections require that each voter have the ability to cast their ballot without risk to health and welfare,” Richards said in a statement. “Voting itself during this crisis will surely risk voters and poll workers health alike.”
I’m calling for the city to postpone the March 24th special election. We cannot put our students, voters, and poll workers at risk. Full statement: pic.twitter.com/AeS4VVxVtb
— Donovan Richards (@DRichards13) March 13, 2020
He added that seniors often makeup the largest votership turn-out and that they are most at risk of complications if they contract the novel coronavirus.
“With our seniors often being our most habitual voters, the current environment will surely put their lives in danger,” he said. “That’s a risk we cannot take.”
Furthermore, Richards said, the fact that many polling sites are at nursing homes and schools is alarming.
“With the number of polling site located in both nursing homes and schools, the vulnerable population at those sites makes holding a truly democratic election impossible.”
The Council Member is sending a letter to de Blasio as well as Governor Andrew Cuomo to postpone the election this morning, he said.
But another candidate, former Council Member Elizabeth Crowley, shot back on the idea to postpone in her own statement.
“Canceling an election is antithetical to our democratic values and sets a worrying precedent for the future at all levels of government — we must instead focus on how to keep voters safe through the polling process,” she said.
Canceling an election is antithetical to our democratic values and sets a worrying precedent for the future.
Please see my statement on my opponent’s call to postpone the Queens Borough President election. pic.twitter.com/lwUAc1yoSm
— Elizabeth Crowley (@ElizCrowleyNYC) March 13, 2020
Council Member Costa Constantinides, who is also on the ballot, denounced Richards’ suggestion as well.
“Indefinitely postponing elections would be a grave mistake,” he said in a statement. “This will give Donald Trump a dangerous precedent to abuse his power and postpone the Presidential election this November. We should not play politics with our democracy.”
Both Crowley and Constantinides have instead called for absentee ballots to be sent to all voters in order to keep them safe and healthy.
“By providing all Queens residents the ability to vote by absentee ballot via mail, we ensure we fill a vitally important office that assists Queens residents, with a democratically elected leader, in this moment of crisis,” Constantinides said.
“The Board of Elections has the capacity to mail ballots to all registered voters and allow voters to return the ballots in a secure envelope with prepaid postage,” he added. “This is the best way to ensure that we keep the integrity of our elections while keeping everyone safe.”
Early voting for the election begins tomorrow and runs through Sunday, March 22.
Yesterday, Mayor de Blasio said with early voting, the voting process is spread out and the polls will be less crowded.
“So, it’s almost its own version of social distancing,” he said.