* This story was updated at 2:52 p.m. 10/28/13.
West End residents are determined to return a voting site
that was closed in their neighborhood and have called a rally toward that goal.
The West End Neighbors Civic Association (WENCA) is spearheading a “Bring Back the Vote to the West End Rally” outside the former polling site at West School, 90 Maryland Ave., at 6 p.m. Monday.
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The rally is the latest measure West End residents have taken to try to reopen the site for voting after one of only two Nassau County Board of Elections commissioners, William Biamonte, a Democrat, disapproved of reopening the site that was transferred to Lindell School for the Nov. 5 primary election for Long Beach City Council, despite that West School was reopened for classes in early September after repairs were made to the Hurricane Sandy-damaged building.
an email sent to WENCA members Sunday, John Bendo, the organization’s
president, wrote: “This is an issue that affects Democrats, Republicans and
Independents alike and should [unite] us all, no matter what your political
views may be.”
Last week, Bendo announced the launch of a petition that calls on City Council members to urge Biamonte to reopen the site. The issue was an agenda item at last week’s WENCA regular monthly meeting, held at the West End Community Center at the south end of West School. Louis Savinetti, the Republican commissioner, has agreed to reopen West School for the primary, but both commissioners must agree in order for the site to reopen.
At the meeting, Bendo and Jerry Romanoff,
WENCA’s vice president, said they and other residents have called Biamonte’s
office about the issue but were unable to speak with the commissioner, who had
not returned their calls. “We can’t exactly get a straight answer why,” Bendo
Bendo said that one explanation Biamonte’s decision is that he believed reopening the polling site at West School for the primary election, after residents voted in the primary on Sept. 10 at Lindell School, may cause confusion.
Biamonte told the Long Beach Herald:
“The policy of the board is that we try to keep absolute consistency in the general election and primary to avoid confusion. [West School] was closed during Sandy. When we do our annual planning, we asked the [school] district what was coming back and what wasn’t, and this one didn’t. The Democratic primary was held at Lindell. We try to minimize confusion for the voters; where they vote in the primary should be where they vote in the regular election. Our planning department, and the Republican planning department, said that it was too late to make the change.”
West School holds three of Long Beach’s 24 voting districts, and Republicans have a greater percentage of registered voters in those districts compared to the rest of the Democrat-dominant city, according to Newsday, which noted that, according to Nassau County election records, 43 percent of voters is Democrat and 27 percent is Republican in the three districts. Six candidates, three Republican-backed candidates and three Democrats, are vying for three seats on the Long Beach City Council in the Nov. 5 primary election.
Romanoff, who called for a peaceful protest against relocating the polling site to Lindell School, said the matter should not be made a political issue but rather a public one. “I think it’s ludicrous that we have to go into cars and buses to go vote, when a huge amount of people can walk right over or carpool together,” he said. “To me, it borders on criminal.”
While speaking at WENCA’s meeting last week, City Manager Jack Schnirman was
asked to comment on the issue, saying at first that he runs the City of Long
Beach, not the county’s Board of Elections. “As a West Ender, I’ll tell you
flat out that I prefer to vote in the West End; it makes my life easier and I
think that’s the way it ought to be,” Schnirman said. “ … But I don’t get
involved in elections. That’s not my piece of the world.”
But Denise Ford, a Republican Nassau County legislator who lives in the West End, called on Schnirman to get involved in the issue nevertheless, imploring him to call Biomante and ask him to allow people to vote at the West School. Schnirman countered, saying that there is a political piece to the issue “and that’s not for me to get involved.”
continued, asking Schnirman to at least consider providing bus transportation
for West Enders who may need them to travel to Lindell School, which is more
than a mile from West School, to vote next week, since the city provides
transportation for residents for other citywide events. Schnirman indicated
that they could take city-run buses that travel a route to Lindell School, but
others in the room noted that the buses don’t stop at the school that abuts the
bay on Lindell Boulevard.
Ford also challenged Romanoff on his assertion that it was not a political issue, and said she called both commissioners soon after the September primary to bring voting back to the West End and got Savinetti to approve the return of the site to West School. She also said David Weiss, superintendent of Long Beach School District, sent Biamonte a letter, saying that West School could be used for voting.
have to make a stand; I mean, this is crazy to be told by a Democratic
commissioner that we West Enders would be confused about where we’re going to
vote,” Ford said. “I find it to be rather insulting and really demeaning.”
John Ryan, a counsel to Savinetti, said the commissioner has been called on Biamonte for about a month to approve the use of the West School, he told the Herald:
“I think the only issue was that the school was out of commission during Sandy, and now it’s back in commission. The community has asked to be able to vote in that place again. Only 4 percent of voters voted in the Democratic primary. I think [Biamonte] has other reasons he won’t articulate.”
The three Republican-backed candidates running for city council, Mike Franceschini, Janna Jachniewicz, Damian Walsh, as well as the Republican candidate for City Court judge, Ted Hommel, have called on their Democratic opponents to urge Biamonte to reopen West School for voting.
Long Beach Democratic Committee Chairman Mike Zapson told the
Herald that he reached out to
Biamonte but was told it was too late to use the building. Zapson added:
“[Lindell] worked fine for the primary, and it will work fine again for this
election, and in the future I’m sure they’ll move it back to West School. I
think [the Republicans] try to come up with election issues before the election
but, really, the issue is whether the city is being run better now than it was
under the previous Republican administration.”
Ford on Monday announced that she will hold a press conference about the issue at 5:30 p.m. at the corner of Maryland Avenue and West Beech Street.