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Attorney General James Wins Lawsuit Forcing Rensselaer County to Increase Access to Early Voting Sites in Communities of Color

Letitia James

Court Orders BOE to Find Accessible Site in Troy for June 2021 Primary

NEW YORK – New York Attorney General Letitia James announced that a judge ruled in favor of her office’s request for an injunction against the Rensselaer County Board of Elections (BOE) for failing to provide voters in Rensselaer County with adequate and equitable access to early voting poll sites, specifically in communities of color. Judge Adam W. Silverman of the Rensselaer County Supreme Court ruled that BOE’s decision not to place a site in a centrally located area within Troy is arbitrary and capricious, and must be annulled. The court ordered BOE to select a site by June 9th that would provide Troy voters with reasonable access to early voting poll sites in advance of the June 2021 primary election. The early voting period for New York State primary elections is June 12, 2021 through June 20, 2021.
 “This decision is critical to our efforts to ensure that every New Yorker has fair access to the polls,” said Attorney General James. “As states around the country seek to infringe on this most basic right and make it harder to vote, our work to protect and expand voting rights in New York is more important than ever. I will always fight to ensure that every New Yorker has the opportunity to make their voice heard at the polls.” 
In May 2021, Attorney General James filed a lawsuit against the Rensselaer County BOE and its commissioners, Jason Schofield and Edward McDonough, for failing to provide voters in Rensselaer County with adequate and equitable access to early voting poll sites, as required by the New York’s Early Voting law. The lawsuit alleged that when BOE and its commissioners selected early voting sites, they ignored criteria that was required by law to take into account when determining poll sites. Despite the availability of potential early voting sites in Troy — the most densely populated area of the county — BOE and its commissioners repeatedly refused to select an early voting site that was easily accessible to Troy residents, where the majority of the county’s Black, Hispanic, and lower-income communities reside. The lawsuit followed multiple attempts by the Office of the Attorney General, as well as various advocacy, community, and faith-based organizations in and around Rensselaer County, to urge BOE to select additional or alternative early voting sites, but BOE has continuously declined to do so.    
“Access to early voting sites has and remains a priority of mine, which is why Senator Breslin and I passed statewide legislation last year to ensure that early voting sites were located in the highest populated community within each county,” said Assembly Member John T. McDonald III. “The decision by the courts system this past Friday expands on that effort. I commend New York State Attorney General Tish James and her team for their efforts.” 
“We, of the Justice Center of Rensselaer County, are delighted with Judge Silverman’s ruling,” said Bob Blackmon, Justice Center of Rensselaer County. “However, we regret that it took a decision of the court to force the publicly funded Rensselaer County Board of Elections to do the right thing and stop its blatant suppression of the vote of people of color.” 

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