An insurgent candidate for Rafael Espinal’s vacated Council seat has called for officials to postpone the April 28 special election in order to protect voters from the novel coronavirus.
“Postponing the special [election] is the right thing to do for everyone’s safety,” said Sandy Nurse in a March 20 tweet.
The Bushwick community activist contended that the last thing residents in the 37th Council District need right now is to risk exposure to COVID-19 at the voting booths.
“Our community is worried about how they are going to pay rent, how they are going to feed their kids, and if they get sick, how will they afford treatment,” Nurse said in a separate statement. “The last thing they should be worrying about is whether or not it’s safe to go to the polls to vote. We have to make decisions based on supporting our most vulnerable communities, not on political calculations.”
She echoed calls by the advocacy group Common Cause, which has demanded officials move the special election — and all other votes that day — to June 23, the primary for several other state and federal legislative races.
Her opponent, local District Leader Darma Diaz, said that she would leave it up to Governor Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Bill de Blasio.
“I’m waiting on the governor’s and mayor’s decisions,” Diaz said. “As the race gets closer they will determine what they think is best.”
Council Speaker Corey Johnson has overseen the district ever since Espinal stepped down suddenly in January to take a job heading the Freelancers Union. Diaz, whom Espinal endorsed, noted that having the election next month would allow for a dedicated city representative to help locals during the pandemic.
“The council district is not being represented at this moment, that does concern me,” she said. “I’d like to see the vacancy no longer be a vacancy.”
Others have already called for New Yorkers to be able to vote by mail.
Assemblyman Joe Lentol, whose district includes the neighborhoods of Williamsburg, Greenpoint and Fort Greene, introduced legislation on March 18 to make absentee ballots available to voters statewide. Attorney General Letitia James has since called on the governor to introduce a similar measure via executive order.
In his regular coronavirus press briefings, Cuomo has indicated his preference for keeping the election date but expanding voting by mail, the Buffalo News reported.
Mayor de Blasio previously called off the special election for borough president in Queens, which was supposed to take place on March 24, but his office did not return a request for comment asking whether he would consider canceling or moving the April special election, which also coincides with the presidential primary.
The 37th Council District includes Cypress Hills, Bushwick, Ocean Hill, Brownsville, and East New York.