Victory for Voters: Albany BOE Agrees to Provide Countywide Early Voting Centers This Fall
After threat of legal action from VoteEarlyNY, Common Cause/NY, and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, Albany Board of Elections will fully comply with new early voting law in time for Election 2020
ALBANY, NY (08/20/2020) (readMedia)-- With a little over two months until early voting starts in New York, the Albany County Board of Elections (BOE) has officially confirmed that all Albany County voters will have access to countywide early voting sites. This means that any eligible voter will be able to cast their ballot at any of six early voting sites in the County instead of assigned sites--a dramatic expansion of voter access and convenience.
This commitment comes after VoteEarlyNY, joined by Common Cause/NY and the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law, sent a demand letter to the BOE insisting that they bring their early voting program into compliance with the new law ahead of the Fall. The same groups issued similar demands to Westchester and Orange counties earlier this month. Westchester has agreed to comply with early voting law.
See attached for the demand letter and BOE's reply.
"Expanding to countywide early voting access from single-assigned sites is a game changer for Albany residents looking for the best way to exercise their rights during the Pandemic. Voting should be convenient and accessible for all, and that means giving New Yorkers clear options for casting their ballot. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure Albany voters are properly made aware of their expanded rights going into the Fall," said Jarret Berg, a Co-Founder of VoteEarlyNY.
"The prompt response to our request by the Albany County Board of Elections to comply with the Early Voting law shows that citizen advocacy is a powerful tool to protect the rights of voters," said Adam Magazine, a VoteEarlyNY Attorney and Co-Founder.
"This was a good decision by the Albany County Board of Elections. It creates greater access and ease of voting for Albany County voters. I applaud this result," said Senator Neil D. Breslin.
"Last year the New York State Legislature passed a series of historic early voting reforms enabling New Yorkers to exercise their fundamental democratic right and vote early," said Assemblymember Patricia Fahy. "I applaud the Albany County Board of Elections for continuing to make this a reality for residents this year -- and encourage all those who are able, to vote early this year at any of the County's early voting locations. I look forward to continuing to work in the state Assembly in the future to make it easier and more accessible for all New Yorkers to vote."
In the fall 2019 general election and the June 2020 Primaries, Albany County BOE deployed an early voting program that restricted City of Albany residents to a single early voting site while instructing county voters residing outside the City that they could vote at both a local assigned site and the City of Albany site. The law requires counties like Albany that have adopted electronic poll book tablets and ballot on demand printers to permit all voters to use any early voting site in the county. As a result of this timely intervention, all voters will have the option to cast a ballot at any of these early voting sites in the fall.
The New York State legislature passed early voting last year, giving voters nine more days to vote in person ahead of Election Day during at least 60 hours, including weekends and evenings. The move away from residency-based assignments to countywide access is a hallmark of the reform. Early voting decreases wait times at poll sites and lets voters cast a ballot on their own schedule. Early voting also reduces systemic stress and crowded public spaces which is crucial during COVID-19.
VoteEarlyNY is a non-partisan education non-profit (501(c)(3)) and voting rights watchdog created by pro-voter advocates to ensure that much-needed reforms to New York's Election Law are implemented responsibly, in the spirit with which they were enacted, and made accessible to all New York voters. During COVID19, VoteEarlyNY has worked to safeguard Voter Access Resiliency.
VoteEarlyNY provides rights-based civic education and is working to build a culture of Early Voting among the public that empowers communities, reducing their dependence on partisan campaigns and administrators for basic information about our civil rights.