Advocates Blast BOE

Marla Diamond/WCBS 880

Advocates Blast BOE For Suing Over Interpreters At City Polling Sites

February 25, 2019 - 1:01 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) — Advocates gathered outside a Brooklyn court Monday to rally against the NYC Board of Elections’ recent lawsuit aiming to prevent city interpreters from being allowed inside polling locations.

The city is looking to provide expanded interpretation service at certain polling sites throughout the five boroughs for the special election on Tuesday. Though, the BOE has claimed interpreting services inside the centers is electioneering, and therefore the interpreters cannot be allowed within 100 feet of the polling site.

On Monday, a Brooklyn judge will decide whether or not the foreign language interpreters should be allowed inside polling centers, drawing immigrant rights activists from all over the city.

“Think about the message that this sends to people everywhere, to people from all communities,” Avi Greensteen, director of the Boro Park Jewish Community Council, said of the BOE’s lawsuit.

Yiddish is one of six languages the city planned to add to polling sites. Currently, the board already provides interpretation services for Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Bangla outside certain polling centers— they are not allowed to accompany voters inside.

Under Mayor Bill de Blasio’s plan, staff would be identified as interpreters with pins outside polling centers and could accompany voters into the site upon request.

“Everyone should have a right to vote,” said Assemblywoman Rodneyse Bichotte, who represents a Brooklyn neighborhood with a large number of Haitian immigrants.

MinKwon Center for Community Action executive director John Park told WCBS 880 that the current law preventing interpreters inside polling centers is a turn off for many potential voters and it’s crucial that they be given the chance to express their right to vote.

The activists have likened the rule to the Jim Crow era when blacks were not allowed to vote.

An attorney for the NYC Board of Elections says they are trying to “create a zone of quiet contemplation and voter privacy and having a city-hired interpreter gives the appearance of impropriety.”