Decision 2020

Is Handing Out Masks Electioneering? NYPD Says Cops Seized PPE After Request From BOE

The Board of Elections hadn't responded to a request for comment on whether that qualifies as electioneering as of Wednesday morning

A video posted on social media that showed New York City police officers taking away masks that were being handed to early voters over the weekend doesn't tell the whole story, according to the police department.

NYC Council Member Carlos Menchaca says officers took PPE from community activists outside an early voting location in Red Hook on Saturday, the first day of early voting in New York. The NYPD said Tuesday that the officers did so at the request of Board of Elections officials who said the activists were not complying with election rules after being asked to move their table and amplifier.

The Board of Elections hadn't responded to a request for comment on whether that qualifies as electioneering as of Wednesday morning.

The video posted to Twitter by Menchaca shows officers confiscating the equipment despite someone's plea that there's a table measure. The police department later posted a bodycam video to Twitter that shows the activists moving their table a few feet, but not to "the end of the block" as an officer asked.

A New York State election law states that electioneering within 100 feet of a polling place is prohibited. Organizers can be heard on the bodycam video suggesting that they were more than 100 feet away and that there were no election-related materials being given out to voters, only COVID-19 information and masks.

In a statement, police said, "We acted at the request of the NYC Board of Elections/polling place personnel who control polling places. The group present was blaring loud music within 10 feet of the door and refused the request of New York Election Officials to move an appropriate distance. Police were asked to assist and did."

Reacting to the bodycam video on Tuesday, Menchaca said the activists "clearly moved the table several times yet the officers still seized the material."

"And to add insult to injury, the officers returned the material and set up the table in the same exact location where they seized it. This calls into questions the original claim the NYPD is making about the organizers in the first place," the councilmember said.

One of the major issues with early voting in New York has been long lines. Voters reported waiting up to four hours in some polling locations. To mitigate that, the New York City Board of Elections on Tuesday approved nine extra hours for early voting on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.

On Friday and Saturday, polling places will now be open from 7 a.m. to 5 p.m., and on Sunday they will be open from 7 a.m. to 4 p.m.

State election officials said more than 710,000 New Yorkers voted at in-person polling stations Saturday through Monday, including nearly 400,000 in the city.

Copyright NBC New York
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