NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Five days after claiming ballots for school board and library trustee as well as the referendum on the City School District of New Rochelle 2020-21 budget had been sent to voters Schools Superintendent Dr. Laura Feijóo has admitted no ballots were sent.
Feijóo now claims ballots should be in the mail by Tuesday June 2. The election is June 9, leaving insufficient time for voters to receive and return ballots by the 5 pm deadline next Tuesday.
At 3:40 p.m. on Friday May 29th, Feijóo sent an email which stated:
The ballots were mailed yesterday (Thursday May 28th) and you should expect to receive them within the next couple of days.
None of this was true.
Talk of the Sound learned on the morning of Monday June 1 that no ballots had been sent and published this information at 1 p.m.￼
Feijóo knew this yet waited all day, not sending out an announcement until 5:11 pm:
I regret to have to inform you that earlier this morning we were notified that the ballots for the 2020-21 school budget vote and Board of Education election were not mailed out last week…
She blamed the printers.
The printers did not issue a statement to voters.
None of the information about the ballots in either email appears on the District home page nor was any of it communicated in a press statement or on social media so the only people receiving information on the delayed ballots are individuals on the District’s email distribution list which is primarily parents of CSDNR students and employees which make up a fraction of New Rochelle’s roughly 44,000 registered voters – the voters most likely to support the 2020-21 School Budget proposed by Feijóo to the School Board last month.
The vast majority of voters of New Rochelle are unaware of why they have yet to receive a mail-in ballot for an election now just one week away or how the option to hand-deliver ballots over the coming days is now supposed to work.
Some have questioned of whether the ballots have been deliberately delayed to force in-person voting as part of a scheme to scare away seniors and Black and Latino voters who have a higher risk of dying from COVID-19.
Feijóo has been the target of Black and Latino residents since her hiring was first announced on June 28, 2019 and the community learned that Feijóo filed a $90 million “reverse-discrimination” lawsuit against the Latino School Chancellor in New York City. Members of New Rochelle Against Racism, the NAACP New Rochelle Branch, the Westchester County Board of Legislators, and other leading figures in the community banded together with concerned parents who hard organized to form “The Collective”. A complaint to the New York State Education Commissioner was filed seeking her removal. A lawsuit filed in New York State Supreme Court soon followed. By November, days after her official start date on November 1, 2019, the union representing teachers, security guards and custodians was calling for her resignation or removal. She further enraged many in the Black community last November by suspending a beloved football coach.
On May 1st, Governor Andrew Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.26 which moved school elections back to June 9, extended the deadline for candidates to get on the ballot for school and library board and, most significantly, ordered school districts to send mail-in ballots to every registered voter in the District to avoid contact during the coronavirus pandemic.
To be counted, ballots must be received by 5 pm on June 9.
During the pandemic all mail and shipping has been delayed as anyone who has ordered a package from Amazon can tell you. Not only are the ballots not being mailed out on time but it may take several days for voters to receive the ballots and, once votes are cast, several more days for the ballot to be received at City Hall. There is now a high likelihood that thousands of votes will not be counted due to the District’s failure to mail the ballots last week.
Feijóo has yet to explain how she could not have known by the end of day last Thursday that ballots had not been mailed raising questions about why she would send an email last Friday stating something that was untrue. It is even less clear why five days later she still did not know and why once she did know she sat on that information for the better part of the day on Monday. For days, residents have been asking on social media why they had not received their mail-in ballot.
The City School District of New Rochelle always seeks to suppress voter turnout so that only parents of students and employees vote, voters who tend strongly towards approving the school budget. Failing to send out ballots will suppress voter turnout, effectively disenfranchising voters, especially minority voters and older voters who are more likely to vote down a school budget and most at risk from coronavirus.
Flying in the face of Cuomo’s Executive Order to minimize the risk of transmission of the coronavirus, Feijóo has effectively reverted the election back to one where voters must vote in person but, perversely, closing all 13 polling locations and funneling voters from all over the entire City into a single location: the parking lot behind City Hall (which has been closed since March). If voters want to be certain their ballot will be accepted they must now make personal hand-delivery of ballots at one location, City Hall.
Feijóo today announced:
Completed ballots may be returned to the District Clerk via mail or in person at the entrance to City Hall from the parking lot behind the New Rochelle police station.
Friday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Saturday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Sunday 9 a.m. – 4 p.m.
Monday 8 a.m. – 8 p.m.
Tuesday 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.
Through Thursday, the hours will remain 8 a.m. to 4:30 p.m.
Ballots must be received by the District Clerk no later than 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9.
This is not what Governor Cuomo intended under Executive Order 202.26.