New York

November 2020
Voter's Rights

At a Glance

On September 4, 2020, The Andrew Goodman Foundation along with Bard College President Leon Botstein and Bard College students filed a lawsuit against New York’s Dutchess County Board of Elections for violating student voter rights, the New York State Constitution, and state laws for designating a dangerous off-campus polling location. 

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The Andrew Goodman Foundation, Bard College President and Students Files Motion to Rehear Voter Suppression Lawsuit Against the Dutchess County Board of Elections

October 16, 2020

The Andrew Goodman Foundation along with Bard College President Leon Botstein and Bard College students have filed a Motion for Leave to Renew and Rehear their case against the Dutchess County Board of Elections after the New York Supreme Court denied their initial petition to move the polling place to a safer and more accessible location on Bard College’s campus.

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About the Case

Nearly 70% of voters in Dutchess County’s fifth district, where Bard College is located, live on Bard’s campus. In spite of this, Bard students have repeatedly had their voting rights infringed upon by Dutchess County. This lawsuit marks the fourth time Bard students have had to resort to legal action or threat thereof in response to blatant voter suppression and is a part of a years-long fight to establish a polling location on their campus. 

The current conditions and location of the appointed polling place, St. John’s Episcopal Church, raises numerous concerns over safety and accessibility. Without a ramp and designated handicapped parking spaces and bathrooms, St. John’s fails to meet ADA requirements, and it lacks the sufficient space required for social distancing and other forms of COVID-19 safety protocols. In addition, many students do not have a vehicle, making the current location—which isn’t serviced by public transportation and has a windy, dark, and sidewalk-less road—inaccessible. 

This isn’t the first time these concerns have been raised. In 2016, the town of Red Hook, where St. John’s is located, passed a resolution to move the polling site to Bard out of a similar concern. The town did so again in August 2020. Moving the fifth district’s polling place to Bard College’s campus would address these issues, and provide a safer and accessible election experience for both student and non-student voters and poll workers. The designated off-campus location agrees, recommending that an alternative site be found based on its “inability to provide an adequately safe environment for poll workers as well as the voters” in light of COVID.

On October 13, 2020, Judge Maria G. Rosa denied the request for relief. She found that the “petitioners have stated good cause for fair consideration to be given to moving the polling place,” but would not grant the request due to the proximity to Election Day. However, the day after Judge Rosa’s determination, the Dutchess County Board of Elections re-situated two other polling locations due to similar COVID concerns. AGF has since filed a motion for leave to reargue and renew based on this new evidence, which only furthers the underlying claim that the County’s excuses are pretext for student voter suppression.

In her statement, Chief Counsel for The Andrew Goodman Foundation Yael Bromberg confirmed that AGF and Bard College will not be deterred and will continue to fight for the rights of Bard’s students.