The Andrew Goodman Foundation, Bard College President and Students Win Student Voting Rights Victory in Dutchess County, NY Ahead of the 2020 Election

The Andrew Goodman Foundation (AGF), a national 501(c)(3) nonpartisan organization that works to increase student voter participation and access to the ballot box, won a voting rights victory that will relocate Dutchess County, NY’s District 5 polling site to a safer, more accessible, and ADA-compliant location on Bard College’s campus. Judge Maria G. Rosa, who initially ruled against the move citing proximity to Election Day, reversed her previous decision after the Dutchess County Board of Elections (BOE) moved two polling locations just hours after her initial ruling.

“This decision isn’t just a win for student voters, it is a victory for American democracy,” explained Alexandria Harris, Executive Director of The Andrew Goodman Foundation. “On the eve of one of the most consequential elections of our lifetimes, the Dutchess County BOE should be doing everything possible to increase voter turnout, not suppress it. I want to thank our co-plaintiffs, the town of Red Hook, St. John’s Church, and community partners from the disability and elder rights organization Caring Majority Rising who added their voices to this effort to protect the voting rights of all.”

On September 4, 2020, along with Bard College President Leon Botstein and Bard College students, AGF filed a lawsuit against the Dutchess County BOE arguing that the original polling site, located at the Episcopal Church of St. John the Evangelist, was inaccessible to voters in the district and not compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act and related New York State Law. The church itself wrote to the BOE to recommend a relocation due to its “inability to provide an adequately safe environment for the poll workers as well as the voters” in light of the COVID-19 pandemic.

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 on the grounds that it was too close to the election. The plaintiffs swiftly filed a Motion for Leave to Renew and Rehear upon the BOE’s relocation of two polling locations the morning after the Judge’s late afternoon ruling.

“The Dutchess County Board of Elections has a twenty-year history of intentionally discriminating against student voters. For years, the Board has resorted to a variety of tactics, including refusing to move the polling location to Bard’s campus even though 70% of eligible voters in the district reside there. What’s worse, the Board is inexplicably willing to put voters’ and poll workers’ lives at risk by forcing District 5 to vote in a location that itself acknowledges that it is unsafe due to COVID-19,” remarked Yael Bromberg, Chief Counsel for Voting Rights at The Andrew Goodman Foundation. “On the eve of the 50th anniversary of the Twenty-Sixth Amendment, which outlaws age discrimination in access to the ballot, and on the 30th anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act, the BOE’s actions necessarily remind us that we must vigilantly protect the fundamental right to vote. I commend the generations of Bard College students who paved the way for this win. We stand alongside them in protecting the future that they will inherit.” 

The lawsuit is brought on behalf of Andrew Goodman Student Ambassador Sadia Saba; Bard College President Leon Botstein; Bard College Vice President for Student Affairs and Dean of Civic Engagement Erin Cannan; Election@Bard; and The Andrew Goodman Foundation.

Counsel on the lawsuit are Michael Volpe, Joshua Rothman, Hilary Atzrott, Megan Hynes, and John Walsh of Venable LLP, and Yael Bromberg, Chief Counsel for Voting Rights for The Andrew Goodman Foundation and Principal of Bromberg Law LLC.

The final ruling can be found here.

About The Andrew Goodman Foundation 

The Andrew Goodman Foundation’s mission is to make young voices and votes a powerful force in democracy by training the next generation of leaders, engaging young voters, and challenging restrictive voter suppression laws. The Foundation’s Vote Everywhere program partners with America’s colleges and universities to provide resources, visibility, and mentoring to a national network of student leaders who involve their peers in participatory democracy through long-term voter engagement, public policy, and social justice initiatives. The organization is named after Andrew Goodman, a 20-year old Freedom Summer volunteer, and champion of equality and voting rights who was murdered by the KKK in 1964 while registering Black Americans to vote in Mississippi.