November 2, 2012
Copyright © 2011
Mid-Hudson News Network, a division of Statewide News Network, Inc.
College students sue Dutchess County over voter registration address issue
| POUGHKEEPSIE – Four college students
have filed a federal class action lawsuit against the Dutchess County Board
of Elections over Republican Commissioner Erik Haight's requirement that
college students must place their full local address on their voter registration
The students, from the Culinary Institute of America, Marist College and Bard College, registered to vote and provided both street and mailing addresses, but had their applications denied by Haight because they did not list their specific on-campus address, including dormitory room numbers.
The New York Civil Liberties Union said some 100 other students were also denied the right to register, a number disputed by Haight who earlier said it was closer to 50 students. And he said many of them properly filled out their forms after he made the requirement known, and were duly registered.
The lawsuit seeks relief on behalf of the four individually named students and all similarly situated students. The students are represented by the New York Civil Liberties Union and the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler PC.
"Dutchess County has imposed an unconstitutional burden on the fundamental right of college students to vote as residents of their communities, where the are affected by the decisions of local officials and which they regard as their primary places of residence," said NYCLU Legal Director Arthur Eisenberg. "The right to vote is preservative of all other rights in a democracy, and deserves the strictest constitutional protection possible."
Haight disputed the charges. “Dutchess County BOE has a longstanding policy since 2003 of requiring dorm names and room numbers as do BOE’s across the state,” he said. “ We all know students don’t live inside a mailbox and are required to provide a residence just like any other voter in Dutchess County. We simply don’t register voters to PO Boxes and have always required a residential address as required in New York State Election Law.”
The NYCLU is seeking emergency action from the court so that all students who seek to vote in Tuesday's election who registered to vote may do so. The hearing on the NYCLU's request for a preliminary injunction is scheduled to take place at 10 a.m. on Monday before Judge Karas in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District in White Plains.
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