Reinvent Albany Joins Groups Urging NYS Board of Elections to Ensure Colleges Have On-Campus Polling Sites


Reinvent Albany joined NYPIRG and other groups in a letter to the NYS Board of Elections urging them to ensure that all covered colleges has polling locations on their campuses.

Andrew Goodman Foundation
Citizens Union
Common Cause/NY
Generation Vote
League of Women Voters of New York State
New York Public Interest Research Group (NYPIRG)
Reinvent Albany

May 23, 2024

Henry T. Berger, Co-Chair, NYS Board of Elections
Peter S. Kosinski, Co-Chair, NYS Board of Elections
Essma Bagnuola, Commissioner, NYS Board of Elections
Anthony J. Casale, Commissioner, NYS Board of Elections
Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky, Co-Executive Director, NYS Board of Elections
Raymond J. Riley III, Co-Executive Director, NYS Board of Elections

New York State Board of Elections
40 North Pearl Street, Suite 5
Albany, NY 12207-2729

Dear Commissioners and Executive Directors of the New York State Board of Elections:

As organizations concerned with youth voter participation, we write to urge that you review polling locations to ensure that all covered colleges have polling locations placed on campus.

A recent study conducted by the New York Public Interest Research Group (please see attached) showed that some number of colleges in the state do not have on-campus poll sites even though many have a significant number of students living on campus.

There are over one million college students in the state. Across New York, colleges are filled with students who historically are less likely to vote yet have a common community. The unfortunate history of student voting has been one in which officials too often seek to suppress participation among this voter segment.

A key battleground has been the right of students to vote in their college communities. Perhaps not surprising, local elected officials and boards of elections did not, in all cases, look kindly upon the newly enfranchised student electorate. Even though college students are—for the purposes of the federal census—considered residents of college communities, efforts to limit the student vote persisted. After years of court battles, boards of elections in New York are required to register students to vote from their campus addresses if the student wishes.

As has been the case when fundamental rights are extended to new groups—which threatens the status quo—securing the legal right to vote did not mean that actually voting would be easy for young voters.

As a result, barriers persisted. Year after year, students have faced obstacles to registration and voting in counties around the state. For example, some counties split campus populations into multiple election districts or removed the campus poll site.

In 2022, New York State enacted a new law that required General Election polling places be placed on colleges and universities that had at least 300 registered voters living on campus. That legislation was approved to help college students vote in elections from their on-campus addresses.

Under the new state law, colleges that have “three hundred or more registrants who are registered to vote at any address on such contiguous property” must have a polling place placed on “contiguous property or at a nearby location recommended by the college or university and agreed to by the board of elections.” Despite the new law, New York’s college voter turnout in 2022 was disappointing, with a turnout under 30 percent.

As mentioned earlier, part of the problem is that it appears that many colleges did not have polling places as was expected after passage of the new law. Did those campuses have fewer than 300 registered voters living on campus? Or was it a failure of the law or its enforcement? Those questions have not yet been answered.

Our organizations believe that it is imperative for policymakers to examine this issue and see whether state law needs to be strengthened or implementation falls short or both. However, the issue must be examined – failure to allow college students the opportunity to cast their ballots on campus is an indefensible restriction on their constitutional right to vote.

Therefore, we urge that the State Board review polling locations, review whether the colleges identified in the NYPIRG survey should have polling sites and ensure that any such colleges that should have polling places, but do not, have one added prior to the General Election this November. If your review identifies weaknesses in the current statute, we urge that you make recommendations for reforms.

We look forward to working with you to ensure that college students are adequately empowered to vote. Sincerely,

Rashawn Davis, Andrew Goodman Foundation
Ben Weinberg, Citizens Union
Susan Lerner, Common Cause/NY
Brendan Cushing, Generation Vote
Laura Ladd Bierman, League of Women Voters of New York State
Blair Horner, NYPIRG
John Kaehny, Reinvent Albany

State Senator Zellnor Myrie
State Senator Kevin Parker
State Assemblymember Latrice Walker
State Assemblymember Nily Rozic

Click here to view the original post on NYPIRG’s website.

Click here or below to see the full letter.