Angel Hernandez had every intention of voting on Election Day.
After walking almost half a mile to PS 188 on East Houston Street, where he had long voted, Hernandez was told that redistricting meant his polling site had been changed.
The 71-year-old retired maintenance worker suffers from arthritis. Both Hernandez and his wife, Carmen Diaz, 73, who uses a cane, decided they couldn’t make the additional half-mile trek to the new location.
So they didn’t cast ballots after all.
According to poll workers at the Lower East Side school, they were among many local residents who had come to what was now the wrong location and then didn’t vote at their new one.
“I used to go here every time, I don’t know what changed,” Hernandez said, standing in front of the information desk. The couple was redirected away from the school where they had voted for the past seven years, most recently in the August primary.
“This is closer to my house,” Hernandez said. “But now they want me to walk all the way to Sixth Street.”
Poll worker Eden Schumer, who had been stationed at PS 188 since 6 a.m., estimated that by 4 p.m. close to 100 voters had mistakenly come to the school.
The redrawing of state and federal legislative districts this year was to blame for changing where many voters could cast their ballots. Throughout the summer, the new maps had pitted longtime Democratic allies against one another, including in the primary in Hernandez’s 10th Congressional District, where 13 candidates competed.
Francesca Barreiro, 39, a mother of five who arrived at PS 188 with a toddler in tow, was frustrated when poll workers told her she needed to go to a new location six blocks away.
“I just voted here in June and in August,” she said. “I didn’t get anything in the mail, or email, nothing.”
Samantha Silva, who has been a Board of Elections inspector at PS 188 for the past six years, said voters were to have been notified by mail about their polling sites.
“My polling [location] was changed and I was informed,” Silva said. “So it could be a matter of people not paying attention to the mail that they were receiving.”
In any case, she said, “I’ve never seen it like this.”
Barreiro was initially unsure about whether she would make the trip to her new site.
“Honestly, I was just going to go home,” Barreiro said. “But it’s not that far to go to. So I am not going to miss the opportunity to make my voice heard.”
Schumer—no relation to New York’s senior senator—was concerned about redirected voters having to make an additional 10-minute walk.
“For a lot of people who are old or disabled, that’s a really big deal,” she said.
Before moving to the city from North Carolina in September, the 22-year-old Duke University graduate had volunteered to register voters and was a poll observer for the North Carolina Democratic Party.
“I’ve noticed that if you don’t make voting easy for people,” she said, “they just won’t do it.”
As the day went on at PS 188, her perception was proving to be correct.
Alfredo Arenillas, 74, who uses a cane to get around, shook his head when asked if he would try to vote at a new location nearly a mile away.
“I’m tired,” he said. “I made the effort.”