April 29, 2019
Mayor Bill de Blasio: Charisma, if that’s your version of speaking in front of a crowd and feeling nervous, I’d like to see when you're not nervous, you did a fantastic job. Charisma, thank you. And thank you for making really clear, really plain what New Yorkers are saying all over the five boroughs – it’s just too hard to vote. It is something that no one looks forward to. They are worried that it's going to be not just a hassle, but the kind of lines, the kind of breakdowns that make it impossible to stick around and do your civic duty because you're late for work or school or whatever it is. It's become commonplace that people assume voting's not going to work out and that is discouraging people from showing up to begin with, and that's exactly the opposite of what we would want.
What Charisma is talking about – I can't tell you, Charisma, how many New Yorkers have said that exact same kind of thing to me, that they go there and they thought – they thought things were supposed to be getting better. In the last few years, I don't know what's going on, but it seems to have gotten worse and worse. And the lines that now can be an hour or more in too many places, directly discouraging people from participating in democracy. It's the exact opposite of what we should want. And it makes no sense.
So, I'm here today to say it's fantastic that the State Legislature voted and decided we should have early voting.
But if we get the same old mistakes and the same old excuses from the Board of Elections, then early voting is not going to work either, and we have to be honest about that. You can take a great new idea and put it in the wrong hands and it won't work. So we're saying to the Board of Elections today, you have a chance to get it right. You have a chance to get it right this time. And D-day is this November. And November 2019, that's going to be one election, but, you know, the mother of all elections is going to be November 2020. So they better get it right this year to be ready for next year. We have to get early voting right. And we're saying very clearly to the Board of Elections, we'll put our money where our mouth is. Now, are you ready to take up this task? Are you ready to do the right thing? Are you ready to make early voting something that's easy for people in neighborhoods all over this city?
I want to give you this letter – sent this letter today to the New York City Board of Elections and it gives them 75 million good reasons to do early voting the right way – $75 million
– for 100 early-vote sites around the City. I want to be clear, 100 early voting sites means you're actually trying to help people vote, right?
A hundred sites may sound like a lot at first, but that's basically two per Council District. So when you think about it that way, it's the least we should be doing. It does cost money and the State of New York is not paying for it at this moment. We hope to rectify that in the future. But, right now, we had to put it into the City budget. But I want you to know that, when I thought about all of the things that matter in New York City, our democracy matters the most, and this investment of $75 million is worth every penny. But now my friends, we have a question – is the Board of Elections going to take us up on this generous offer? Are they going to authorize 100 early voting sites? Or as we saw them do with our previous efforts to support them with $20 million for the kind of reforms that every other agency does, and they turned that down.
Are they going to turn down this $75 million? Are they going to leave us in the lurch? Well, I hope the answer is no, but we don't know. They have until Wednesday to decide. So I hope they're listening and I hope they understand the consequences, because right now people desperately want to be involved. It's a time in history of people take very, very personally and they need to make their voice heard and they need to make sure their vote counts. And we don't know if that's going to happen unless there's enough early voting sites.
So that's what we're fighting for today. And I want to thank all the members of my team who are here because all of the City government is ready to work with the Board of Elections to get this right. We stand ready to help them every step along the way. I want to thank the Commissioner of the Mayor's Office of Immigrant Affairs Bitta Mostofi, I want to thank our Parks Commissioner Mitch Silver, and I want to thank the Executive Director of School Facilities for the DOE Sal Calderone. All of them stand ready to work with the Board of Elections. And I also want to thank the advocates who have been fighting for years and years for early voting, who are at this point celebrating progress, but because they are very wise, jaded New York City advocates –
– They know progress only happens when you see it happen, and we've been disappointed by the Board of Elections before. So you're going to hear from some of them. I want to also acknowledge one – thank him for his great work – Murad Awawdeh, the Vice President of Advocacy New York Immigration Council. Thank you so much, Murad.
So, we've seen the lines, we've seen the frustration, we've seen the people just turned away. I've seen it with my own eyes. People in line and are looking at their watch, and they're looking at their watch, and they're looking at their watch, and they just can't wait in line a longer, and they can't come back later on. So they'd given up their chance to vote that year. I've seen it happen time and time again. I've seen people go into a poll site and say, not again, I can't believe this is happening again, and turn away in anger and frustration. This has become commonplace. And remember, when so many voters were taken off the polls with – taken off the voting rolls with no explanation, no warning. How many people – I’m going to do a test of the group here – how many people, either yourselves or you've met someone, who had their poll site change and they were not informed of it?
Okay. Seems pretty common. This is all broken and it can't go on this way. And we're putting the money on the table to make early voting work, but there has to be a will on the part of the Board of Elections. And while they're considering our generous offer, how about they decide to stop suing us because we want to help people be able to vote and provide translation for people don't happen to speak English well?
I want you to know that they should stop suing us because we're going to beat them in court, that’s a good reason right there. But they should really stop suing us because all we're trying to do is help New Yorkers who need translation services to understand the voting process and be comfortable going in and exercising their democratic rights. And we've been hearing this from communities all over the City for years, that they'd been desperate for more translation services and the Board of Elections never did it. So, the City stepped forward and said, we'll do it. We'll make it happen. We'll do it. And do we get? A lawsuit from the Board of Elections?
So, look, I just want to be clear – you know, we say BOE – we say BOE, and unfortunately we don't say it so favorably, because it should stand for a Board of Elections, not Board of Excuses. But too often it has been the Board of Excuses. Too often we hear after Election Day, excuses why everything went wrong. Too often we hear the next day of all the calamity and people throwing up their hands and shrugging their shoulders instead of saying that this is unacceptable. We know it's not acceptable. We're not going to accept it. We're going to fight to make sure early voting works. With early voting, you really can solve so many of the problems that we've had on Election Day, but only if there's enough places for people to vote.
Before a few words in Spanish, I’ll just say this – I don't think I've ever seen a time when people felt so urgently that they needed to be involved. And I know that now people are looking forward next year to being able to decide the future direction of this country, but they're worried that they won't get to the side cause they won't even get up to bat, they won't even get up to that polling machine and get to put that ballot in. It is so personal at this point. It is urgent. It's a matter of life and death for New York City voters, but voters all over the country and we have to make sure that every vote is counted. This could be a matter of our survival. Everything in terms of global warming is on the line. Everything about the strength of our democracy is on the line. Everything about whether we're going to have a fair and equal society, a respectful society, a society that includes everyone or society is only for the few – all of that is on the line. People want to vote, they need to vote. Let's make sure that the Board of Elections is not the only thing standing in their way.
With that few words in Spanish –
[Mayor de Blasio speaks in Spanish]
Let's make it easier for everyone to vote. And you're going to hear now from some folks who have been the front line of this struggle, and the victory in Albany really is their victory as well. And before I turn to the first speaker, a special thank you to two people who could not be here, but they really – we need to shout them out wherever they are – State Senator Zellnor Myrie and Assembly Member Charles Lavine.
They sponsored this legislation that for years and years had been dreamed of, and now it's a reality. And now, in terms of the City's effort, well, we said over a year ago that we were going to focus on intensifying and improving our democracy in New York City. And we put forward referenda before the people and the people spoke resoundingly and decide in favor of even more progressive campaign finance laws. And they decided in favor of all the kinds of things that are Civic Engagement Commission's going to do to get the word out to people, make it easier to participate. And they certainly decided in favor of the notion of the City focusing on the quality of our democracy, and that's why we now have a Chief Democracy Officer, because it matters. And she is bringing activism to City government and driving our efforts to make New York City a place where the democratic process works for everyone.
Our Chief Democracy Officer Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune –
Chief Democracy Officer Ayirini Fonseca-Sabune: Thank you, Mayor de Blasio. And I just want to thank you for championing these issues. For years this has not been a quick process, and even when I started six months ago, people said, this is impossible. This isn't going to change. And now it has, and so I want to thank you for your commitment over the years to early voting, to same-day registration, no excuse absentee, pre-registration for 16 and 17 year olds. Some of these are still in process. They will take time. But it is that commitment that we see from you over the years that makes a difference, and, today, the financial commitment to back it up. As they say, you put your money where your mouth is and it will make a difference for New Yorkers. So, thank you, Mayor, for that.
And thank you, Charisma, for sharing your story. We have all been there. We all have family and friends who have been there waiting in line. People who have to leave – a friend of mine with a baby had to take the baby, couldn't wait anymore. You know, a little baby – they have to eat very often, and the baby was just like, no, no more – screaming. So, you know, they had to go. So, that's not acceptable. That's not democracy at work. Democracy is when everyone has the opportunity to make their voice heard, and your voice is your vote, and we have to do better here in New York.
So, I'm happy to be in Harlem for this in particular, and I want to, you know, acknowledge the struggle for voting rights over time for people like me. When I interviewed with the Mayor and he said your job is to give every New Yorker a voice, to give all people a voice. I thought about, we, the people, in our country and in our state and in our city. And when the people first were constituted, I wasn't included in that group for so many different reasons. And people have fought and shed blood and tears and lost their lives for this right to vote and we cannot take it for granted.
So, this is a critical moment in the history of our country, for our state, and for our city. And as the Mayor said, everybody wants to get involved. Everybody is interested. And what do we see around the country in Tennessee, and Georgia, and North Dakota? People are making it harder to vote, harder to register. In Tennessee, they want to make it illegal to run a voter registration drive. Illegal – why? Because they don't want people to have the opportunity to vote. In other states, they're making restrictive voter ID laws because they know, who doesn't have an ID? It's low-income communities, it's communities of color and they don't want these communities to have the opportunity to make their voices heard. So, here in New York, we're doing it differently. Here in New York, it may have taken us a little while, but now we're catching up. Now, we have early voting, and I want to thank Chair Myrie and Chair Lavine, and the whole State Legislature for making this package happen this year. Finally, it was time, so thank you.
And I want to acknowledge and thank and congratulate the advocates who are here, because they have been relentless in this struggle to make this happen and continue to be relentless. And it has been a privilege to watch as this has continued to take shape. And I know that this, this struggle isn't over. We all know that. It will just continue.
So, thank you. Congratulations. And I look forward to continuing this partnership to making these reforms a reality. A reform in theory means nothing, what means something is a reality on the ground. So, thank you to all the advocates who have worked on this for so many years.
Now, at the State level, we know that reform is in process and we know at the City level, as well, we are – I think the first city – I've been looking around for the other Chief Democracy Officers out there, and I haven't found them, but, if they're out there, give me a call. We are the first City – thinking about this in this way– what as a municipality can we do to make voting easier to make sure that everybody gets their voice heard? And so, you know, here we are looking at early voting and looking at what it means. Does having that law in place mean anything without putting it into practice? We have to see what it means on the ground and we know that early voting, to work right, we have to have locations that are distributed fairly and equitably throughout city and that you have to have the opportunity to vote at different locations in your county, that you have to be able to vote on your lunch break or early in the morning or late in the evening, that the hours need to be distributed fairly, and that they have to be accessible.
Early voting has to make it easier to vote. And we know if we just get a handful of poll sites for the most populous counties in the state for millions of people – just a handful of poll sites, that doesn't make it easier. That just perpetuates the same problems that we have seen year-in and year-out, and that Charisma had talked about or that the Mayor talks about. We'll just see it again in a new form, just nine days of long lines, nine days of people frustrated and not knowing. So this is our opportunity to do it better and we must not pass it up. We must make good on the opportunity that the State has given us to change the frame of voting in New York. And when we see early voting, when it's done right, what do we see? We see young people, as Charisma said, young people are more likely to take advantage of early voting. We see people who can take advantage of communities that they participate on the weekends, whether faith-based communities, community activism groups that they participate in. We can go from the souls to the polls on Sundays, on Saturdays, on Fridays. We have looked at our faith leaders. One of the first things I did when I became Chief Democracy Officer. I went to Bethel out here in Harlem and they said, we want to go. We want to be able to vote on a Sunday. We see that in the south. That is an opportunity that is now available to us that we didn't have. And so we have to make sure that you can walk, that you can walk from your community center, from your house of worship, wherever you are on the weekend, that you can go with a group of people and say, let's go vote together. Let's make this a communal activity. Let's think about how we can impact our government, our community, our political process together.
So, we, you know, when we think about making voting easier, we think about early voting, we think about all the reforms that are in process, and we also think as, the Mayor said, about language access. And I have to say – you know, it was like four months on the job, and I was like, okay, we're working on this. I worked with Bitta from MOIA, to make language access a reality. And so I was pretty surprised when I got sued for that.
That was my first time getting sued.
Chief Democracy Officer Fonseca-Sabune: Thank you. Thank you. And I'm proud – I’m proud to be a defendant in that lawsuit because what we are defending is the right of limited English proficient New Yorkers to understand their political process, to be able to cast their vote.
We all know it's not easy when you get in there – it’s, what's your [inaudible] what table do you go to? Reading the, the referendum, which are interesting and important to our democracy, but that's not obvious. Even for the best situated, it's confusing. So we have to make sure we provide that service for people who need it. And to be sued by the Board of Elections for trying to make it easier to vote I think is just emblematic of this whole ridiculous situation that we're in.
So, you know, here in New York City, we're working to give every New Yorker a voice. And that means immigrants, limited English proficient, young people, older people, everyone. It does not exclude somebody because they live far away. They should have an early voting site in that community. It doesn't exclude somebody because where they live or work is not transit accessible. We need to make sure that early voting really takes our democracy to the next step, and we need the Board of Elections to get us there. So, this is the opportunity – the $75 million, 100 poll places. Let's make it happen. Early voting in New York City, make it effective, make it a reality, and let's take it to the next level in 2019, and even more in 2020.
Thank you everybody.
Mayor: Director of Common Cause, Susan Lerner.
Mayor: Thank you, Susan.
I felt like saying come on in the 21st Century, the water is fine.
Next, a leader and tireless advocate for equality, for making sure there was accessibility always for disabled people – for everything in their lives, but especially that most sacred act, participating in democracy by voting. My honor to introduce Christina Curry, Executive Director of the Harlem Independent Living Center.
Mayor: Thank you so much Christina, I really loved when you said a currently undisclosed location, that sounds like the Board of Elections.
How many of us have been told to vote at an undisclosed location over the years, or inaccurately disclose the location? Finally, I want you to hear from Murad, and again, thank you for your great work with the New York Immigration Council and your advocacy on behalf of immigrants in this city but also your advocacy for a better, and more inclusive democratic system. My pleasure to introduce Murad Awawdeh.
Mayor: Thank you very much, Murad. And now we’re going to take questions on the early voting and then we will take questions on other topics. Early voting and Board of Elections, Rich?
Question: Mr. Mayor, do you expect an answer to the BOE [inaudible]?
Mayor: Yeah, my understanding, and others can join in is that Wednesday is the deadline that they have to meet to be able to be up-and-running for the November election, and that’s part of what’s mandated in the law and we’re all waiting to hear how they’re going to handle this. Right now we’d have no indication – we’ve made very clear, obviously I did the budget announcement last week and made clear the funding we’re putting in. Rini has testified to the Board previously making clear what we believe is a fair standard, and it’s referenced there in the state law, the notion of 50,000 voters per early voting site. You look around the country, different cities have different amounts but they’re in that kind of ballpark. So there’s a lot of evidence that this is the number that should be the minimum but we have no indication yet what they’re going to do. Courtney?
Question: The State Board of Elections past regulations this morning that somewhat spell out how this could all work and according to those regulations the city would only need 34 sites.
Mayor: I mean just – I just want to start by saying it just stands to reason that that wouldn’t work. 8.6 million people, according to the Board’s count, about 5 million registered voters – one could debate whether that’s accurate but whatever the number is it’s very, very substantial, and just think about the geography of this city. If you really want to make it accessible, if you want people to be engaged, if you want people to feel like it’s going to be easy and not a hassle, there’s no way you could have that few sites.
Question: Just a follow-up, a number of years ago you obviously offered the Board of Elections $20 million for a number of reforms, they didn’t accept it. Why do you think it would be different this time?
Mayor: I – look, I’m still stunned they didn’t accept that and I think there’s been a lot of outrage from everyday New Yorkers, from activists, from elected officials, from the media, I don’t know how on Earth they didn’t take that money and make those reforms. And I’m still hoping that there’s, you know, more reform in Albany that we need including legislation to change the nature of the Board of Elections, because it’s stunning that they could just ignore something like that. There’s no other agency I’ve ever encountered in my life that if you offer them $20 million, with very limited, fair conditions, they wouldn’t take the $20 million. So, go ahead.
Question: Do you think that Mike Ryan is the person to see this through?
Mayor: Look, I am confused why we’re not seeing more change. So, I’ve worked with him and I respect him but I don’t know why we’re not seeing more change. So I think this is a decisive moment for him – he better step up now and show that he’s ready to put in the kind of number of early voting sites we need.
Question: Just to – just jumping right off that answer though, I mean, this decision is also going to be made by the commissioners and that’s five Republicans and five Democrats running [inaudible] across the city. Mike Ryan will be responsible for executing it. How do you think an event like this is going to influence those ultimate decision-makers, and do you think there really are more structural changes that need to be implemented to change how the Board of Elections is organized and how the decisions are made?
Mayor: Yeah, there – we absolutely need structural change. This current process isn’t working, it hasn’t worked for a long time. And to begin, the legislature should pass the legislation that has been introduced that empowers the executive director and gives the executive director a lot more independence and freedom to run the agency like a modern organization. That would be a great first step. But I do believe this is going to create pressure. When we were talking about the reforms and the $20 million, you had to be really focused in the issue perhaps to understand the ramification and maybe that’s part of why the Board thought they could get away with it, but this is a whole different reality. This is out, in front, in public. People have seen early voting all around the country, they know it’s been voted on, they expect it. If the board doesn’t give them enough opportunity to vote, there’s going to be a firestorm and that means ultimately that the legislature will have to look at that as well. So, in the legislature very resoundingly passed this, I don’t think they want to fail immediately. And I want to amplify the point made earlier that this is the only opportunity in November to prepare for seismic elections. The presidential primary in April, the general election in November – the general election in November is going to be, in my opinion, the highest turnout that we have seen in our lifetimes and maybe go even farther back. It’s going to be like nothing we’ve seen before, and they better damn well be ready so this is the one chance to get it done.
Question: On the executive budget you said $96 million—
Question: —and this is $75 so what’s the—
Mayor: The electronic poll books, so that’s the technology for them to be able to convert away from the paper poll books, have it all available in a database, it should be a much easier process.
Question: And then just in terms of process—
Mayor: I’m going to let someone else go and comeback to you. You go ahead, who’s back there. Sally.
Question: [Inaudible] what you think the structural problems at the Board of Elections are for people who may not know the kind of strange way it’s set up and run.
Mayor: Yeah, I mean look, I’ve said before, if I had control of the Board of Elections like I do schools or police or sanitation, we would name a professional commissioner, they would be accountable to the people, you know they’d go before the City Council and have to do oversight hearings, I mean all the things that are normal with an agency and have been part of why New York City government over the years has gotten more and more effective. But this is not that. This is an arcane structure run by the political parties, and the executive director, and I think Mike Ryan is certainly a professional person but I also don’t think he has that much power, because of the current structure, which is why I think at minimum, empower the professional manager to run the place, [inaudible] a very powerful step. Who else has, Marcia?
Question: Mr. Mayor, another issue that’s bugging the Board of Elections is somebody decided to put online all of those—
Question: —names of the voters. Not only their names, their addresses, their apartment numbers, but also their [inaudible]. I wonder [inaudible].
Mayor: I’ll start and I know Susan may have a view or others may have views and would like to welcome that, I – look, I don’t think they did it the right way, I think they should have given people a sense that they were looking at that option and prepared people for it. I don’t think it’s a bad thing unto itself, I think it is part of the transparency we actually would want, we would want people to know, yes you’re showing as a registered voter, and everything is okay, or if someone went along and didn’t find their name there, they’d no something was wrong. So it’s not a bad idea, the way they did it I think was mistake because, you know, out of the mists of years and years of not giving us very clear information and purging people in the middle of the night, suddenly everything is on the line.
Question: So I guess, [inaudible] a lot of people have expressed concern that the law says they could only be used for election purposes, and people who might want [inaudible] sell them sweatshirts, [inaudible], or something like that could use this information, with their addresses, et cetera, or party affiliation [inaudible] go after people.
Mayor: I think it’s a fair concern but I would still come back to, and again, I don’t pretend to be the greatest expert on this issue but I think the idea is consistent with the notion of a functioning election system. That it’s very public who’s registered to help people know, and to help make sure there’s consistency, because everyone here will tell you the stories of folks who were absolutely thought they had done everything right to register and they show up and they’re told they’re not registered, or they’re registered in a party that’s not their party, or they’re told to go vote somewhere else. I do think the transparency helps to overcome that. Anyone, no you don’t, you don’t – no, you’re staying out of this. Okay, go ahead.
Question: If Mike Ryan asks the Board to not accept the $75 million, do you that he should resign or at least be leadership changes at the Board?
Mayor: Again I think it goes beyond him but I think if they don’t there’s going to be a crisis and it will affect the board members and it will affect Mike as well – that you can’t have an early voting system that’s not going to work. People will see through it right away. How can you have – you know the state law sets these minimums. They’re just not enough. You know, seven polling sites for a whole borough of millions of people, it makes no sense whatsoever. So this is a moment of decision for the Board, I agree with Susan’s point, it’s the 21st Century, they can’t say they can’t afford it because we’re putting the money on the table, so I think, yes, if they fail to do it, I think it’s going to be a problem for him, but I think it’s going to be a problem for the whole board.
Question: [Inaudible] the $20 million you offered?
Mayor: We’ve never gotten a coherent answer, we’ve offered it repeatedly, and the conditions that we’re asking for a just really basic managerial improvements and technology improvements and I don’t know if they think some sort of pride thing that they shouldn’t accept $20 million to make their operation bigger, better, but you know, this is why it’s arcane and backwards and it can’t go on like this, because there’s just nowhere else that people would turn down money to make their work better because of some sense of pride. Anyone else on this, Sally?
Question: [Inaudible] do you have an estimate of how many more people would vote if you opened these early poll sites?
Mayor: Rini, you got a sense of that? And this is obviously speculative but—
Chief Democracy Officer Fonseca-Sabune: Sure, we – you know, we looked at other states and how many people participate in early voting and there’s a range. It is like from 20 percent, some states it’s over half of people—
Chief Democracy Officer Fonseca-Sabune: Yeah, exactly, votes early. You know, it’ll be the first time and I think we expect around 20 percent, we’ll have to see. And it will also depend, to some extent, on where the sites are, if you have to travel far and wide to get to an early voting site, you know, it makes you less likely to do it.
Question: [Inaudible] 20 percent increase over like, [inaudible]—
Chief Democracy Officer Fonseca-Sabune: 20 percent of those who turn out. Yeah.
Mayor: Right, so that’s – so of all those who vote, we would say minimum 20 percent would take advantage of early voting, but as Rini said, in some states it’s over 50 percent, and it certainly correlates to greater turnout. I mean, you can get, Sally and everyone who wants it some of the history but there’s no question – as early voting was implanted in various states, it increased turnout overall, and made it a much easier experience for people. Bridget?
Question: Are you prepared to do anything if they don’t accept the money?
Mayor: Yes, we’ll cross that bridge when we get to it, we’re giving them, you know, they have 48 hours and we’ve made it very clear that here is cash money available. If they refuse to act we’ll look at all our options at that point.
Question: And in terms of making it possible for them to do this easily, one of things the Board has asked for in the past was a municipal poll worker plan to allow city workers to work at poll sites, since they [inaudible] they have a hard time finding people to work at these locations. Is that something that you support?
Mayor: Look, we’re happy to work with them on any approach that will improve things, but the exactly why we offered them the $20 million was to be able to improve the operations and support getting folks there who could do the work well. So, we’d have any conversation with them but again I find it a little contradictory that we had an approach that would start to address that issue while still allowing city workers to do the work that they are doing – there wasn’t even interest in engaging that seriously. So if they say hey we want to improve the caliber, let’s do it that way first I would argue. Yeah.
Question: [Inaudible] you mentioned there were models that you say were pretty good at doing this, can you explain some more details?
Mayor: Come on over, so you can get [inaudible].
Executive Director Susan Lerner, Common Cause: So again, the vast majority of cities that have early voting in their states have successful early voting programs. Los Angeles, Chicago, Baltimore, Asheville North Carolina – Albuquerque, New Mexico – Baltimore in Maryland — Boston, Massachusetts all have successful early voting plans where they use ballot on demand that produces the ballot for the voter as they come in and then use electronic poll books to check people in, and the ballots are then counted by the scanners. And we see different hours, and different arrangements in different locations. In many rural counties you’ll have one or two early voting places, but they’ll be in the Board of Elections or the election administrator office and then in another county office. We’re aware of places in Texas, and New Mexico just off the top of my head who utilize early voting places in shopping centers, so that when people are out shopping on weekends or evening hours, that’s it’s very accessible for them to be able to vote. And we also see staffing arrangements where early voting hours we see that there are tend to be rushes as I mentioned earlier, lunchtime right after work and day on Saturday. So, there are adjustments in terms of how early voting sites are staffed to be sure that there are enough people to handle the surges.
Mayor: Okay, anyone else, yes?
Question: Her figure is $96 million. So $75 million is going to run – the balance is going to update the system?
Mayor: $75 million for early voting and the $21 million is for the electronic poll books. Anyone else on this, yes?
Question: I’m just kind of curious about your strategy to come out publicly pretty strongly criticizing the Board. Why did you decide to do that recently kind of like the reset button with them –
Mayor: There is no reset button I can find. I mean we’ve – I have never anything like it. You know – we’ve tried, I assure you before the $20 million was put on the table, was lots of discussion and negotiation of what did they need, how could we help. We put it out there very hopefully and then were shocked to see consistently they would not accept it. Now, all they had to do was do a vote of their Board. So you know, this has been a very troubling reality, and I don’t think its time for pleasant discussion, I think its time for calling them out and putting the demand on the table. And helping all New Yorkers to know that they can either have early voting that works for them or they can have something less. But there is only one place to turn to know who is responsible; it’s the Board of Elections. Yes?
Question: What was your option [inaudible] if the BOE predictively says no thank you, I don’t need your money? I know in the past you’ve said you wish you controlled the Board of Elections.
It has to be decided by the State Legislature. Again, I would argue if they fail to make this deadline or they come up with an insufficient answer, it puts even more pressure on the notion of at least passing the legislation to professionalize the Board and empower the executive director. That would be a step in the right direction. I think it’s a decisive moment for them. They have to act differently or there will be more and more pressure to change the structure forever, and you know, I think this one, this one is really obvious. And because we’re on the verge of an election which I think everyone understands is going to be unlike anything we’ve ever seen before, and I think the stakes are even higher. Have I missed anyone? Yes.
Question: So – hi, my name is Zack [inaudible] I am a advocate –
Mayor: Oh, I am sorry to interrupt you, I thought you were media, I am sorry. Press conference for media, I’ll be happy to see you after. But we’re doing media questions right now. Any media questions, yes?
Questions: Are there any locations that you have them on [inaudible]?
Mayor: I don’t have a personal favorite list. But we’re ready to help them figure out you know, if we’re doing 100 or 100 plus you know, which of the ones that makes the most sense and that you know, would be easiest for people to get to. But you want it to be a reality where people look at it, and say okay that’s pretty easy for me to get to, that’s something that I want to do, because it’s in my neighborhood or its nearby or its you know by a subway, something that makes it encouraging to people to participate. So we would certainly work with them to figure out that list. Okay, last call on – yes, Rich.
Question: Would you vote early?
Mayor: Oh, yeah. As soon as they had a place in or near my neighborhood I would go there. I think it’s a great, great idea. I mean, you know, I have a certain nostalgic love of Election Day, but my nostalgia has gotten really tried in recent years. So it doesn’t feel like it used to be. And the – no, I think it’s – I would want to vote early to send a message to everyone what extraordinary opportunity it is. You know, let’s face it, one of the other things that happens on Election Day, is you plan your day and then something comes up. And there are certainly any number of people who are expected to vote after work, and God forbid they have to stay at work or their kid got sick or whatever it is, and they miss out on voting. So, I think one of the reasons that early voting is so popular around the country is you know it’s done. You know, and you can do it on your own terms, so I absolutely will.
Question: So I expect to see you on the primary ballot next year?
Mayor: Very clever segue.
Wow, blew me away with that one. Oh my God, I don’t know what to do with that. I think you’re off-topic.
Mayor: As I said, you’ll know soon. We’ll certainly look forward to a conversation about that soon. Last call on the Board of Elections issue from the media, going once, going twice – alright, lets do other topics. Bridgette?
Question: Similar [Inaudible] reporter’s question. Joe Biden entered the presidential race talking to community workers today – if you are not going to tell us if you are [inaudible]. Do you think any candidate has made a proponent [inaudible]?
Mayor: Look; I am going to generalize that one for obvious reasons. I think the concern I have right now is for my party. The Democratic Party has to speak to working people, and it has to have a clear strong economic message. And right now its still not clear if that all is going to happen. And one of the most important things about this primary season is to decide who we are once and for all at an incredibly crucial moment in our history. So I will figure my reality soon, but I am going to pushing for that outcome whatever I do. Willie?
Question: My question is – in your time as Mayor, have ever received what is known as a private warning letter from the Conflicts of Interest Board?
Mayor: I don’t know what that is, so I –
Question: The Conflict of Interest Board –
Mayor: I know what the Conflict of Interest Board is, but I don’t know what a private warning letter is.
Question: Its three measures that it takes, two of them immediately makes public, those are fines, and public warning others – you have never received those because they would have been made public.
Question: The third is a private warning –
Mayor: Since I don’t know what it is, I can’t answer you. But I can have our lawyers update you.
Question: When will I get an update [inaudible]?
Mayor: Whenever they get it ready.
Question: The update on measles. So the Health Department said there’s been about 50 summonses so far. What steps have you taken just to make sure the [inaudible] are still happening? And are those people who are getting summonses, are they appearing in court or –
Mayor: Doctor, your moment has come, step forward. Our Deputy Commissioner is here, always ready. I’ll start and I’ll pass to you. So, the – first of all, I want to say I think we see some good signs but we are far from out of the woods obviously. You know, we projected that Passover would be a crucial moment, because a lot of people would be together and then the weeks after we would see what the impact would be. But what is clear is enforcement has been stepped up intensely by the Department of Health both in terms of violations and in terms of school closures. We have two more schools today that we’re reporting will be closed down for tomorrow. Violations now are at 57, those are continuing to increase, and we’re going to use every measure that we have to make very clear how serious this situation is. On the good news side though, you know, we have twice as many children vaccinated this last few months than we had the same period last year. So that is definitely a step in the right direction. Do you want to give other updates, doctor?
Deputy Commissioner Demetre Daskalakis, Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: Sure, so I think as you’ve heard our case count has gone up to 423, and Mr. Mayor, correct we’ve giving 57 notices of violations to individuals. I think one of your questions was about fines for those individuals. They are going to go to OATH for hearing and fines would be adjudicated from there.
Question: So the hearings haven’t happened yet?
Deputy Commissioner Daskalakis: They have not happened yet.
Question: What’s the time frame?
Deputy Commissioner Daskalakis: The time frame is usually it takes about four to six weeks to get them into the OATH hearing.
Question: Are you hitting more and more business for vaccinations or is it dropping down now, what’s your [inaudible]?
Deputy Commissioner Daskalakis: I think as the Mayor said, we are actually seeing a really significant bump in vaccinations since the order on April 9th. We’ve had a doubling of what we’ve expected for this time of year. I think in fact we’ve hit over 1,300 vaccinations given in Williamsburg just after this order. So we’re seeing exactly what we want to see. People are responding to the order and the intent of the order is really to get people vaccinated and to encourage quicker vaccinations to hasten the end of the outbreak.
Mayor: That’s on measles. First of all, anything else? Let me just add – that’s not on measles, right? Okay, just finish on this. Doctor, thank you, and to your colleagues. I want to say the Department of Health has done just an extraordinary job getting out there and spreading the word, encouraging people to get vaccinated, working with a lot of other city agencies. I want to thank everyone who has been a part of that. And you know, I’ve said there is a very small group of anti-vaxxers that have been trying to give people misinformation but what we see more and more with the help of a lot community leaders in Williamsburg, a lot of community institutions. A very clear overwhelming message from the community leadership that people should get vaccinated and that is having more and more impact as you said from the time of the order to now, which help me doctor – two weeks to three weeks that’s been? What since the day we gave the order?
Deputy Commissioner Daskalakis: April 9th so we’re around – almost we’re getting to three.
Mayor: Okay, so in just under three weeks we’ve now had, you know, 1,300 kids vaccinated. That’s really promising, so we’re getting somewhere and thank you very much.
Mayor: Yes, Willie?
Question: [Inaudible] if you ever seen such a letter, will you commit to releasing it?
Mayor: I am not going to get into anything about a letter I don’t know about. So, again, the legal staff will address it.
Question: These letters are typically sent to the individual, not to the workers –
Mayor: Willie, I’m telling you I don’t know it is.
Mayor: And that’s very helpful.
Question: [Inaudible] speak to your lawyers, you mean the city lawyers as well as your private lawyers?
Mayor: The City lawyers will follow up.
Question: But this goes to the individual –
Mayor: Again, that’s all I have to say. Go ahead.
Question: That’s not an answer.
Mayor: Thank you. I think I answered it. Go ahead.
Question: [Inaudible] private lawyer –
Mayor: Again, I'm done on that question. Go ahead.
Question: [Inaudible] willing to work with Staten Island elected officials who were trying to push [inaudible] for homeless shelters in the St. George [inaudible] active discussions with the Salvation Army, trying to secure a [inaudible]. I’m just curious, what was the rush? And why [inaudible] work with these elected officials, you guys decided to go a different route?
Mayor: No disrespect to you, but I need to talk to our DHS team to get their rendition of the state of play and then I'd be happy to speak to it. We engaged in good faith conversations with the elected officials, but to the question of rush – this idea has been out there since April 2017, when I said we were going to ensure there were shelters in every part of the five boroughs, representing the population that each part of the City had in our shelter system. So, the notion that there was going to be expanded shelters on Staten Island has been out there for two years. Discussions of locations have been going on for months and months and we are listening always for different alternatives, but that doesn't mean that we're provided with alternatives that necessarily work. But in this case, let me get an update and we'll be able to speak more to it.
Question: [Inaudible] Salvation Army [inaudible] the City can have a part of this campus to move [inaudible] homeless shelter –
Mayor: Again, I need to know. I just can't do a theoretical on that. I'll be happy to answer when I get an update.
Question: On auto fringe benefits –
Mayor: Excuse me?
Question: Auto fringe benefits –
Mayor: This is a sexy topic. Okay, auto fringe benefit. Do you mean like fringe benefits for an auto –
Question: No, for City workers who get City cars.
Mayor: Oh, auto for – okay, I get it. Okay.
Question: [Inaudible] we looked at some numbers in an article on today's Post that show the reporting for the use of City vehicles on [inaudible] spike up after the whole scandal with DOC and taking cars. [Inaudible] Council members have said that as the investigation into this. Clearly, there’s a suggestion that after Commissioner Ponte was found to have misused City resources, using the City car for personal purposes, that people were all of a sudden reporting this benefit when they had it before. Is this something that you're concerned about?
Mayor: It’s the first I'm hearing of the entire category. So, again, another one I'd be happy to get updated on, have something more to say on, but this is totally a new one on me.
Question: The cover of the Daily News today is regarding an accident you had back in 2015 [inaudible] in a car [inaudible] –
Mayor: I was not driving the car. Let's help everyone here to understand what you're talking about.
Question: Passenger in a vehicle –
Question: Is there any regret that, that accident [inaudible]?
Mayor: Everything about how an accident is handled as the responsibility the NYPD. So, you know, I don't know enough about their protocols, but that's something to ask them.
Question: Have you started fundraising yet for your legal defense fund?
Question: Do you have any plans to?
Mayor: At some point. We’re waiting, of course, for the regulations to come out, but, at some point, of course we will.
Question: Follow-up to that question about the News’ story – where you aware of the cover up when that happened?
Mayor: I don’t accept the notion that anything was done one way or another because I’m not familiar with what was done. So, if you have questions about it –
Mayor: Again, I'm just literally – I don't know the details of it. I don't know how it was handled. Ask the Police Department, because they handled that.
Question: Pete Buttigieg had lunch with Al Sharpton today in Harlem, and he continues to do well in the polls –
Mayor: That was a fascinating pronunciation. I think you made his name French.
Question: [Inaudible] continues to do well in the polls. What do you think of him rising to the top tier of Democrats that are running?
Mayor: I don't comment on different candidates. As I say, I'll make my own decision soon and, you know, then 'll say different things about that race, but I'm not going to comment on individual candidates.
Question: In that same vein, Patch has a story out – there was a flyer at your gym this morning – it was kind of tongue and cheek, telling you not to enter – saying don’t enter [inaudible] run for president, focus running the City –
Mayor: It’s a ban on going to the gym if you run for President? I’m really confused by that.
Question: Apparently it’s [inaudible] have you seen –
Mayor: No, I didn’t. I don’t know about it.
Question: [Inaudible] going to the gym to stay connected to the people, your neighborhood. Have they talked to you about whether or not you should run?
Mayor: Yeah, I talk to people all the time, and, you know, as I said to you guys before, there's all sorts of voices with all sorts of opinions, and many encouraging, and certainly there's some who have critiques, but that's New York City.
Who else? Jeff?
Question: Mr. Mayor, do you think – back to the Daily News story – do you think that accident should have been disclosed to the public, especially given your focus on traffic safety and your Vision Zero initiative? And have you talked to anyone in your detail about why those – that accident was not reported?
Mayor: Again, at the time – I’ll just say this – all I remember was a very minor situation. I don't know what the protocol is. It does not – you know, the things we're trying to do with Vision Zero obviously are protect people's lives and protect people against injury. This was a very minor situation. No one lost their life as far as I know. No one was injured. So, I just don't know what their protocol is, but not something I thought about.
Question: [Inaudible] six months since the [inaudible] project was declared dead. The company still has a [inaudible] agreement with the City [inaudible] what's going on there? Have you guys received any project proposals? Is the City trying to revitalize it?
Mayor: Look, it’s a site we can do a lot with for the good of Staten Island. And there's some real interesting ideas, you know, whether it should be focused on economic development, job creation, whether it should be, you know, public space or some combination. But the process really has only begun. EDC is talking to – has been talking to elected officials and community leaders about what they'd like to see. I don't know if they've put out any kind of formal requests for proposals yet, but that will certainly be coming soon.
Mayor: I don't have a personal view. Look, I would only say I think the – I want to hear from Staten Island leaders and residents. I think the economy in Staten Island, you know, has been growing in some important ways and it might be an opportunity to foster that growth. For example, more tech is a good example, but we really have to hear from the community and the local leaders.
Who hasn't gone? Go ahead.
Mayor: They’re decidedly mixed and I'm sure people up here, as soon as we finish, will have their own strong views. So I grew up with a ranked system in Massachusetts, and in some ways I thought it made sense. But what I don't know is sort of in the way it's been used around the country, what happens? Do more people participate? Do less people participate? Does it make it easier for people of more limited means to run for office or harder? You certainly could argue if name recognition becomes even more central in that kind of system, folks who have more resources or better known already might have an advantage. So, I really am interested in hearing both sides of that debate and seeing what the evidence is from around the country.
Question: Mr. Mayor, given the traffic and the drivers [inaudible] are you glad you're not driving your own car?
Mayor: Look, I actually enjoyed being a driver in this town, although I will not be one in the future, as I said, because I'm going to not be having my own private vehicle after this job. But I enjoyed it, I cannot tell a lie. I mean, some days I didn't enjoy it, but, by and large, I was okay with it.
Question: [Inaudible] traffic today, given Uber and Lyft and all of these –
Mayor: Probably worse than even just a few years ago, yeah. But I'm just being honest, I kind of got a kick out of driving around this beautiful city. Probably I would get less of a kick now though.
Question: [Inaudible] that idea of the privacy concern, do you have any other concerns about –
Mayor: Well, that’s where – I think that's a very fair question and I think it fits under the rubric of not that it was necessarily a bad idea, but the way they did it. I think that's a real fair point that should have been taken into consideration. And you know, thinking about whether there's some kind of opt-out that makes sense. I'm not an expert on this, but I think again, if you're talking about the general question of making our democracy work, I think there's been so much confusion about who's registered, who's not registered, you know, and which address that putting that out publicly has virtues. But I think you raise a good point for some people that may come with real complications. So, I think it would have been better if they had aired the idea first and let there be public comment and then adjusted accordingly for some of the needs and concerns. But I don't think it's a bad idea in terms of, you know, maximum transparency.
Mayor: Yes, it is.
Question: But if they have met that requirement, do you think [inaudible]?
Mayor: I don't really know and I think it's a great question for us to look at. I think it's a fair question because of the concerns you raised. So Reni, and Deputy Mayor Thompson, and others in our legal team will look at that because I think that's a very fair question.
Okay. Last call going once, twice – Willie?
Question: Question on the Board of Elections – you're a Democrat, you are the City’s most prominent elected Democratic officials. You’re close with some of the heads of the county committees. What did you done to try and work with them to put people aligned with your vision on to the Board of Elections?
Mayor: I don't think they – each of them I have different relationships with. As you know, I don’t come out of the Democratic organization. It’s not ever been the place that was my political origin. But it's less about trying to convince them who to put on. I talked to some of the county leaders about accepting the $20 million and I, you know, am just surprised that it hasn't happened. I think it's common sense.
Mayor: Again, I’m not going to get into individual people, but the point is, I think it makes sense for the Board to do it now, and I definitely think it makes sense to pass the legislation in Albany to once and for all empower the executive director so that we can get by all this.