Occupy a Voting Booth

By MARK SCHEERER, Public News Service 

NEW YORK - A new Suffolk County executive will be elected Tuesday on the eastern half of Long Island, and many community groups which think the outgoing officeholder made the county a "laboratory" for anti-immigrant and anti-Latino policies are conducting a weekend non-partisan get-out-the vote effort.

Volunteers from a cross-section of black and Latino community organizations will fan out to urge registered voters to go to the polls on Election Day.

Luis Valenzuela, executive director of the Long Island Immigrant Alliance, says some of the frustrations that have given rise to "Occupy" protests around the nation might be turned into people "occupying" voting booths. 

"The changes that this ‘Occupy Wall Street’ movement are looking for are going to take a little bit of time - where the election is less than a week away."

This fall, the administration of outgoing County Executive Steve Levy was told by the federal Department of Justice that the county Police Department needs to be more responsive to communities of color.

Ana Maria Archila, co-executive director of Make The Road NY, says Levy's administration made Suffolk County a "laboratory" for anti-immigrant policies and politics. She says that's why a large turnout to elect his successor is important.

"We will have over 40 or 50 volunteers from the communities of Central Islip and Brentwood going out to talk to their neighbors about why these elections matter to them."
Activists say they won't be telling people this weekend which parties or candidates to vote for - just to vote, period.

Although the weekend's canvassing will be non-partisan, Valenzuela says he believes that "if you don't cast a vote, you're probably voting for someone whom you probably don't want to be elected."

"For the last several years we've had an administration that was remarkably anti-immigrant and anti-Latino. So people need to make up their minds who's going to benefit the county as a whole."

Volunteers will be emphasizing the importance of voting for members of the County Legislature as well. All 18 seats are on the ballot


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