Victory for Voters: Westchester BOE Agrees to Provide Countywide Early Voting Centers This Fall
After an ultimatum from VoteEarlyNY, Common Cause/NY, the Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights, and Community Leaders, Westchester Board of Elections will comply with new early voting law in time for Election 2020
WESTCHESTER, NY (08/17/2020) (readMedia)-- With a little over two months until early voting starts in New York, the Westchester County Board of Elections (BOE) has officially confirmed that all Westchester 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 approximately seventeen early voting sites in the County instead of one assigned site--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 BOE also failed to notify voters about the early voting sites for the June primary until just four days before the start of voting.
See attached for the demand letter and BOE's reply.
Jarret Berg, a Co-Founder of VoteEarlyNY, said:"Expanding to countywide access from single-assigned sites for early voting is a game changer for Westchester residents. Voting should be convenient and accessible for all, and that means giving New Yorkers options for casting their ballot--especially during a pandemic. We look forward to working with all stakeholders to ensure Westchester voters are properly made aware of their rights going into the Fall."
In June, the Westchester BOE directed some Westchester residents to incorrect assigned poll sites leading to further confusion. Now, all eligible voters in Westchester will be able to vote at any early voting site throughout the county. Of New York's 58 local Boards of Elections, only three others did not offer countywide access for June early voting (the others are Orange, Albany, and NYC).
The New York State legislature passed early voting last year, giving voters nine days to vote in person ahead of Election Day, at least 60 hours of which must be on weekend or evenings, 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.
In the wake of Summer hearings that revealed a series of local voting rights concerns, the Latimer Administration and Board of Legislators has pledged to take action to support improved election administration and publicity about voter access this Fall.
Westchester County Executive George Latimer said, "Never before in recent American history has voting carried the substantial weight it does in 2020. We all have a voice and an opinion and it is the American way to be part of the conversation. We are inspired and motivated - and we all win when every voice is heard and everyone has equal access to the voting booth. Clear, open and frequent communication about where and when to vote is a human right, and I am thrilled to work to get this done for the citizens of Westchester County."
Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins said, "This is a great move by the Westchester County Board of Elections. Making it easier to vote is crucial to ensure that Democracy thrives and that all voters voices are heard. We have a President that is looking to suppress the vote and make it more difficult to vote. I'm glad that Westchester is taking action. The Senate Democratic Majority has made voting rights one of our top priorities and because of our actions New York now has early voting, an easier registration process and a voting process that ensures fairness."
Westchester County Legislator Vedat Gashi said: "Early voting has been a real bright spot for Westchester voters. By affirming that Westchester voters can vote anywhere in the County during early voting, more voters will be able to take advantage of this excellent program. I applaud VoteEarly NY for their advocacy & commend the Westchester BOE for their adaptivity and responsiveness."
Alison Fine, voter and former congressional candidate, said: "I joined this important action to ensure the Board of Elections does its most fundamental job of ensuring every voter in Westchester County can exercise their right to vote early in this crucially important election,"
Concerned Voters of Westchester released the following statement: "We are pleased to see that Westchester will be in compliance with NYS election law enabling all registered voters the ability to vote early at any early voting poll site in the County. This is just one of many actions we expect to see in the Fall to ensure voters are not disenfranchised like we saw during the 2020 primary."
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.