Mayor Bill de Blasio

Anthony Behar/Sipa USA

Mayor: BOE Threatening To Sue Over Election Day Interpretation Services

February 22, 2019 - 3:15 pm

NEW YORK (WCBS 880) —Before New Yorkers head to the polls for a special election for city public advocate on Tuesday, local lawmakers are pushing to make voting easier for limited English speakers.

However, the effort is being met with resistance by the Board of Elections.

During an interview with WNYC, Mayor Bill de Blasio said the board is threatening to sue his administration over efforts to provide translators inside 100 polling places throughout the city.

The board already provides interpretation services for Spanish, Mandarin, Cantonese, Korean and Bangla outside certain polling centers.

The mayor wants to expand efforts to add interpreters for “Russian and Haitian Creole, and Yiddish, and Polish, and a whole host of languages that will help people vote.”

Under the mayor’s plan to provide interpreting service, staff would be identified as interpreters with pins outside polling centers and could accompany voters into the site upon request.

Though, BOE regulations prohibit electioneering within 100 feet of poll sites, meaning efforts to put interpreters inside polling centers would violate voting laws. They have not clarified why interpreting is classified as electioneering.

“What the Board of Elections is saying is, ‘no, those translators have to stay out in the cold and the only way they can help people is if they're not allowed inside the doors of the polling place,’” the mayor said. “That is the ultimate catch 22. That means the board is not allowing real translation services.”

The Board of Elections has yet to respond to a request for comment.