Park Slope has its own modern-day Democratic Hero.
During an eight-hour shift volunteering at the Park Slope Armory— which has been transformed into a shelter for nearly 300 Sandy evacuees— Livia Beasley found out that most of the residents would not be able to vote on Election Day.
Beasley, who is a 36-year-old Butler Street resident and a freelance children’s TV show writer and producer, realized that volunteering to help Sandy evacuees did not necessarily limit her to giving out food, water and clothing.
“While I was standing outside during my shift at the Park Slope Armory, I started to realize a lot of people here are politically-minded and they were getting into politically-charged debates,” said Beasley, who has worked on Sesame Street, Baby First TV, The Good Night Show on PBS’ Sprout and more. “Then, I asked one person, ‘How are you going to vote on Tuesday?’ and they didn’t know.”
After it dawned on her that the Sandy evacuees staying at the armory, most of them from Rockaway, Queens, she decided she had to help them vote for the next President of the United States. She found that the deadline was Monday at 10 p.m. and the work began.
“On Sunday, I printed out a slew of these absentee ballot applications, wrangled some volunteers, some friends and combed through the Park Slope Armory and got people to apply for an absentee ballot,” Beasley explained.
On Monday, through 3 p.m., she collected the ballot applications with 10 other volunteers. Once they got about 85 applications from the shelter residents, she went to the Queens Board of Elections office, while other volunteers went to the one in Brooklyn, to hand in the applications and get the actual absentee ballots.
Acting as designees, Beasley and the volunteers were able to get the ballots for the evacuees. They got back at Armory by 6 p.m. and worked until 9 p.m. on Monday.
Tuesday morning, she then collected the votes from 85 people total and brought them back to the Brooklyn and Queens BOE in time to submit the ballots.
“Once I got to the BOE and I saw the same employees, I gave them all hugs,” Beasley said. “I was just so happy that that we got this done.”
“Everyone involved was amazing. We all took this on as a mission,” Beasley said, explaining that it was a collaboration between her and 10 other volunteers.
Another person who helped, Beasley said, was Councilman Brad Lander (D-Park Slope). Lander helped her figure out the logistics and “championed” her effort.
Lander praised Beasley for helping Brooklynites vote.
"Livia is one of today's democracy heroes,” Lander wrote to Patch on Tuesday night. “Thanks to her, evacuees at the Park Slope Armory were able to exercise their right to vote."
Another volunteer who helped was a Windsor Terrace resident, named Julia Baron.
“I thought it was pretty amazing all these evacuees, some of which are disabled, weren’t going to be able to vote and I was blown away that Livia took this upon herself,” Baron explained, a 33-year-old Prospect Park West resident. “These votes could potentially have long-term effects for America.”
Baron explained that they helped the shelter residents vote by explaining what absentee ballots, who the candidates are and how to vote.
“It was pretty exciting to help people— all who otherwise would not be able to have their voices heard— be able to vote,” Baron said. “To reach out and help people in this horrendous condition, without homes living in a shelter, I applaud Livia.”
Beasley said that the shelter residents even gave her a nickname; they called her “The Voting Girl.”
“All these people have been removed from their homes and are in this crazy situation. I wanted to help people vote, which would have been a great difficultly, if not happen at all,” Beasley said. “They were so grateful for us helping them and said it ‘boosted’ their morale.”
One man, who wasn’t registered to vote, came up and hugged her and said thank you on Tuesday before she left.
“He couldn’t even vote in this election, but I helped him register so he can next time,” Beasley said.
Beasley, who also founded the non-profit Women in Children’s Media, said that after the storm all she wanted to do was help Sandy evacuees.
But, the most important motivator for her was to make sure the evacuees felt human.
“I wanted to make sure they maintained their dignity and comfort as human beings,” Beasley said. “But I also wanted to make sure they maintained their right to vote as Americans.”