TROY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — NEWS10 ABC is getting reaction to a recent lawsuit announced by the New York State Attorney General, accusing the Rensselaer County Board of Elections of violating the state’s early voting law.
Those working on a grassroots effort to gain equitable access to the polls tell NEWS10’s Anya Tucker that they had been trying to work with the Board of Elections and its commissioners well before this went to court.
The lawsuit brought forth by New York State Attorney General Leticia James alleges that the Rensselaer County Board of Elections and its commissioners ignored the legal criteria for selecting early election polling sites. By doing so, they failed to provide equitable access to voting.
Only one site on Troy’s south side was selected at a church. The other two locations are in Brunswick and Schodack, well outside of the densely populated downtown Troy area.
They are also considered out of reach for many minority residents who rely upon public transportation or walking to get to the polls.
“This is part of the systemic racism that goes on,” said Jerry Ford, who is with the Troy Coalition of Black Leaders.
Troy has Rensselaer County’s highest number of minority residents and Ford says people of color who typically have had limited access to the polls are more able to participate during early voting.
“You think about it, early voting lasts for a number of days and to put those polls in spaces that people can’t take advantage of, it seems like they are targeting a certain group.”
Shirley Buel who is with the Rensselaer County League of Women Voters summed it up this way, “Actually, a type of voter suppression by any definition.”
She says her organization and others offered the Board of Elections commissioners- one Democrat and one Republican, several options for alternative polling sites which Buel says would have provided better access to minorities. But she says that those sites were never selected.
“We would like them to be working with us rather than finding reasons why it isn’t going to happen.” she added.
Both Buel and Ford are hoping for changes to be made before the upcoming Primary Day early voting, which is scheduled to start on June 12th.
“The great John Lewis said, ‘It’s always the right time to do what is right.’ So, we can definitely do better,” said Ford.
NEWS10 reached out to the Rensselaer County Board of Elections. Making several calls and leaving messages for both the democratic commissioner and republican commissioner requesting any kind of response to the lawsuit.
Their office told us they were not available to comment.