Fernando Martínez/El Diario

At the Bronx Supreme Court House voting site, the process ran smoothly.

Read the original story in Spanish at El Diario
Translated and condensed by Carlos Rodríguez Martorell

In an election marked by pandemic and mail-in voting, many polling sites across the Big Apple were deserted during Tuesday’s primary. Still, Congressional District 15 in The Bronx showed a bit of effervescence at two sites: P.S. 33 on Jerome Avenue and another located in the borough’s Supreme Court. 

In that district, the primary had a Latino flavor, as voters chose who will replace veteran Puerto Rican Democratic Congressman José Serrano from among 15 candidates, seven of whom are of Latino descent.

Before noon, Dominican immigrant Ana Payán had already cast her ballot at the Bronx Supreme Court site, on Grand Concourse. She chose to skip the mail-in voting paperwork, and appeared in person. 

For this election, voters had to cast two separate ballots: one for the presidential primary, and the other for the state and local races. 

“It was quick, but I had to ask for help because there are many candidates and it gets confusing. I like to come in person to exercise my right to vote; I do not like that mail-in voting business. It seems safer to me to do it directly,” said Payán. 

Born in Santiago, she migrated to New York 29 years ago. In 2001, she became a U.S. citizen, and she has never failed to cast her ballot in Democratic elections since.

“Here in The Bronx, we Latinos are a force. Many of the candidates are Dominican and Boricua. Those of us who are citizens have the option to vote, and it does not take much to do so,” said Payán. “If we want to make demands, we have to speak up.”

An estimated 62 percent of the voting population in The Bronx is of Latino descent, mostly Puerto Rican, Dominican and Mexican.

Charlie Torres, an interpreter for the New York State Board of Elections (BOE), said voting sites generally see lower turnout during internal elections such as Tuesday’s primary. 

“I think Latinos, particularly younger people between 21 and 28, have more information thanks to technology and are more motivated to participate,” said Torres, who is Puerto Rican. “Here, we help many people who need assistance with the language, and answer their questions in Spanish.”

At the voting site in the Bronx Supreme Court House, Dominican immigrant Mariel Susaña, 36, stood in a short queue of four people with enforced social distancing and face coverings. She said she felt proud to be able to vote. 

“As a community, if we want to make demands, we have to speak up. Our future as citizens depends on processes like this one, and we want better schools and better hospitals,” said Susaña. 

The primary had already been postponed due to the coronavirus pandemic. In addition, a stream of complaints from registered voters and political leaders — including claims that some people received empty mail-in envelopes — plagued the process.

The day of the primary, it was reported that some sites across the five boroughs were giving voters only one of two ballots, and that many opened late due to staff shortages. 

That was the case at P.S. 65 Mother Hale Academy in the Bronx, where some voters said only one ballot was distributed during the first hour and a half of voting. Melissa Mark-Viverito, who ran for District 15, denounced the errors. 

“Why is it that communities of color are always the victims of this type of voter suppression?” asked the politician, who also shared concerns on Twitter about the low voter turnout. 

BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vázquez-Diaz admitted to local media that there had been isolated problems in the early hours of Tuesday, including the fact that some voting site coordinators arrived late. 

“The subway cleanings by the MTA taking place from 1 a.m. to 5 a.m. delayed the prompt arrival of some of the voting site staff,” explained Vásquez.

Electoral authorities say that the names of the winning Democratic candidates, who will run in November’s general election, will be known in about two weeks, after mailed-in ballots are counted.

As of Thursday, City Councilman Ritchie Torres was leading with the most votes in the District 15 race.