We believe in democracy. We believe that every vote must be counted. We won’t go anywhere until that happens.
Many of our ancestors died to protect our inalienable right to vote so that we may have our voices heard at the ballot box to demand justice. However, in the past several weeks and especially on Election Day, many were denied a fair chance to vote, which threatens our democracy.
Very intentional Black voter suppression and undemocratic processes clearly don’t just happen in the South but also in The South Bronx.
We are aware of the following activities, just to name a few:
- The Concourse Village polling location, the largest site of Black voters in the 79th Assembly District, which I currently represent, was moved to another location without explanation or clear direction, leaving many residents, including those who didn’t receive their requested ballot in the mail, to walk eight to 11 blocks away putting their health at risk.
- Many Bronxites were forced to vote by affidavit for they were told that were not on the voting list, despite being registered Democrats for all of their adult lives and meaning that their votes are not a part of the initial tally of votes.
- At one polling site, the number of affidavit ballots was so large that the ballots were put into a lockbox and taken to an unknown location.
- Another polling site in the heart of a Black neighborhood was not opened on time and required an urgent resetting of the infrastructure, forcing delays, voters to wait as temperatures approached 90 degrees, and unfortunately persons leaving and not voting at all.
- A blatantly misleading robocall went out without a disclaimer incorrectly proclaiming that I suggested a false endorsement from former President Barack Obama and the Democratic National Committee, clearly with the intent to confuse Black voters.
- Repeated requests by my campaign for critical absentee voting and early voting information that was not provided from the Bronx Board of Elections, without a clear or fair reason for not sharing said information.
These incidents, among others, are too pervasive to be a coincidence. They are a concerted effort to suppress the Black vote and equally make things unnecessarily difficult for campaigns to fairly engage.
Moreover, many Bronxites and many New Yorkers consistently complained that they STILL had not received their requested absentee ballot in the mail or received the ballot the day of the election, which for many seniors isn’t at all sufficient time to have it mailed out if they don’t have someone to assist them. Due to being scared of the coronavirus and afraid of potentially long lines, many people who thought they would have the chance to vote by mail were never given that option. These factors caused what we feared most to come true: for many people on Election Day, they had to choose between their health or democracy. Unfortunately, many didn’t vote as they didn’t receive the ballot they deserved to receive in plenty of time, which in turn is another form of suppression as thousands of people didn’t get to vote due to the process.
With these examples of voter suppression, intimidation, delays and with more than 43,000 absentee ballots uncounted for at this time, I will not concede. All votes must be counted and serious concerns from the people must be addressed.
This race is not over. The fight is not done. There are almost the same number of uncounted absentee ballots as there are actual ballots counted so far.
Voting must be easy. Voting must be fair. It is clear that voter suppression and blockages of relevant information occurred. Therefore, I cannot in good conscience make any decision until I am satisfied that your voice was heard and every vote counted. Too many marched, too many were beaten, too many gave their last breath to see the Voting Rights Act of 1965 become the law for us to not ensure that your voices are heard. Whomever the winner turns out to be, we must protect the sacred right to vote.
My solution is that City of New York and also the State of New York must investigate the direct voter suppression claims immediately and give persons the opportunity to safely come forward with any claims. Moreover, any person who the Board of Elections has in its system as requesting an absentee ballot who conveys that he or she didn’t receive a ballot and never voted should be permitted to receive a ballot through an emergency action to ensure that every person who did everything correct to vote gets that opportunity. The same way remedies are made at the polling place is how we should approach someone voting from home. Moreover, there is plenty of legal precedence of polling places being open for longer periods of time due to voting issues. The problematic delay of ballots being received should be given that similar emergency response.
Join us and anyone else seeking justice at the polls to demand a fair fight, a fair count, a fair election.
There’s been a pandemic of poverty, coronavirus, police brutality and now voter suppression. But, the people always have and always will prevail. We believe in the power of the vote, and we believe in you.
By: Michael Blake