Bard Files Complaint with New York State Board of Elections to Stop Understaffing and Underequipping at Polling SiteANNANDALE-ON-HUDSON, NY —Representatives of Bard College have filed a complaint with the enforcement division of the New York State Board of Elections against the Dutchess County Board of Elections in order to protest “the repeated violations of the New York State and federal constitutions, and state and federal statutes and regulations related to equal protection, the right to vote, youth voting rights, disability accessibility, and election law, that have occurred and continue to take place in District 5 in the Town of Red Hook.”
The complaint outlines a pattern of discrimination and malfeasance by the Board of Elections that includes understaffing and underequipping the polling site at the Bertelsmann Campus Center at Bard College, and repeated actions that violate the rights of voters with disabilities. It notes that the polling site at Bard is the only one in the county to be understaffed, and one of only two in the county with just one voting machine. The complaint singles out Republican Election Commissioner Haight for his reported insistence on understaffing the poll site at Bard, ignoring decisions of the State Board of Elections, and making false representations to the New York State Supreme and Appellate Courts. It also highlights his insistence on using a false disability access survey and suppressing efforts for a new survey: a long overdue report released last week by the office oif the County Executive confirmed that the polling site at St. John’s Episcopal in District 5 in Red Hook is neither handicap accessible nor ADA compliant.
The complaint is part of Bard’s longstanding effort to protect the rights of youth voters under the 26th Amendment to the US Constitution and preserve the rights of voters with disabilities. Over the past decade, Bard College and its students have been party to four successful federal and state judgements against the County Board of Elections.
Bard President Leon Botstein, who votes in Red Hook District 5 says, "The continued discrimination against youth voters and the targeting of the polling place at the Bertelsmann Campus Center at Bard is shameful and unfortunately follows a pattern of discriminatory practices in the county. The Board of Elections should encourage young people to vote, not obstruct them."
According to Erin Cannan, Bard College’s Vice President for Civic Engagement, “As a poll worker in Red Hook for over a decade, I was shocked to find only three poll workers, two Democrats and one Republican, at the Bertelsmann Campus Center and object to the plan to have only three poll workers in the upcoming special election. It seems to directly contradict the Dutchess County training I have been required to attend annually, where the emphasis is on equal representation of political parties in all aspects of the voting process and voting accessibility. This understaffing makes for an unnecessarily long and stressful experience and does not reflect the values or the protocols provided by the Dutchess County Board of Elections to its poll workers.”
According to Bard Vice President for Academic Affairs and Professor of Political Studies Jonathan Becker, “Commissioner Haight’s actions represent everything that is wrong with how elections are carried out in many parts of the United States. He is a public official has ignored the law and the rights of voters and has made repeated false representations to the court. I believe he has chosen to discriminate against voters with disabilities and youth voters for partisan political advantage. His efforts, which have been halted by decisions in numerous federal and state lawsuits, have cost the county nearly $130,000 in legal fees in the past decade, including more than $70,000 in the last two election cycles. We call on the New York State Board of Elections to ensure that all voters in Red Hook District 5 are treated equally at the polling place.”
Find a link to the Full Complaint here.
Bard Press Contact:Mark Primoff
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