Victory for Voters: Orange County Election Board 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, Orange Board of Elections will fully comply with new early voting law in time for Election 2020
ORANGE COUNTY, NY (08/21/2020) (readMedia)-- With a little over two months until early voting starts in New York, the Orange County Board of Elections (BOE) has officially confirmed that all Orange 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 seven 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 Orange BOE insisting that they bring their early voting program into compliance with the new law ahead of the Fall. Last week, the same groups issued similar demands to Westchester and Albany. Officials in both Albany and Westchester have since agreed to expand voter access in time for the Fall.
See attached for the demand letter and BOE's press release confirming county-wide poll sites.
"Because of this timely intervention, Orange County voters who prefer to vote in person will be able to choose from among seven early voting sites that will be open around the county for nine days ahead of Election Day. Voting should be convenient and accessible for all, and that means giving New Yorkers more options for casting their ballot. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure Orange County voters are properly made aware of their expanded rights going into the Fall," said Jarret Berg, a Co-Founder of VoteEarlyNY.
"We enacted early voting last year because it was high time for New York to join the vast majority of Democratic and Republican states that already provided this tried and true opportunity. I applaud VoteEarlyNY for ensuring equal application of the law and thank the Orange County Board of Elections for its decision to more fully implement early voting ahead of this November's election. This common-sense action will undoubtedly make voting more accessible for working parents, seniors, and all citizens," said Senator James Skoufis.
"It is great news that the Orange County Board of Elections will offer its citizens the option to vote at any of the seven polling sites throughout the county during the early voting period prior to election day on November 3. This will allow voters to conveniently cast their ballot on the way to work or school, or in their travels in the county, and I strongly encourage people to take advantage of this convenient option. By spreading out the voting over 10 days, we can reduce crowding at the polls and enable people to exercise this fundamental democratic right safely," said State Senator Jen Metzger (SD-42).
"I applaud the Orange County Board of Elections for making this change. Voting should be simple and easy. I voted early in the primary and it was easy and safe with protection for both the poll workers and voters. I co-sponsored the Early Voting legislation which passed early last year, and I am glad that it is being implemented fully with seven locations," said Assemblymember Jonathan Jacobson.
In June, Orange County voters were limited to casting their ballot at one assigned early voting site tied to their residence. In February, VoteEarlyNY and its partners sent a foil request to the Orange County BOE for information on their early voting locations. In response, the Board admitted that it did not have any rationale for not allowing county-wide voting centers, but the restriction inexplicably remained in place during June Primaries. Now, all voters will be welcome to cast their ballot at any poll site.
The New York State legislature passed early voting last year, giving voters nine 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.