Your Rights

Your Rights

Recent Issues

Reclaiming Your Rights, Fighting Disenfranchisement

Voter suppression of college students in Dutchess County was rampant until 1999, when Bard and Vassar students—with the support of both institutions—threatened a lawsuit against the Dutchess County Board of Elections. In response, a committee appointed by the county legislature, consisting of the late Woody Klose, Kristen Jemiolo, and Marcus Molinaro (the current County Executive), explored the issue and reaffirmed the right of college students to vote where they live and study, a right already upheld by the Supreme Court in 1979. 

The committee recommended that the County Board of Elections “encourage the franchise among students.” After the removal of Republican Election Commissioner William Paroli Sr. on unrelated corruption charges, students were permitted to register to vote. However, in the dozen years since, students have still faced periodic problems, including frivolous challenges at the polls and shifting requirements about presentation of their residence. Bard has consistently advocated for student voting rights and attempted to ensure that students are properly registered. It has also supported litigation (as recently as 2009) to see that that student votes are counted.

Your rights are once again under fire. Election Commissioner Erik Haight has rejected the proposal to locate the District 5 polling site on the Bard College campus, making it safer for students, disabled voters, and those without cars. Contact Haight and tell him to that polls should be where people are by calling (845)-486-2473, or emailing ehaight@dutchessny.gov.
 
For more information about the current struggle for voting rights, visit www.dutchessfairvote.com



Current: Fight for a Polling Site on Bard Campus

Election@Bard co-head Eva-Marie Quinones '17 published this article giving background on the fight for an on-campus polling site.
Jonathan Becker, Director CCE, Election Commissioner Haight's Decision Breeds Cynicism
Jonathan Becker, Director CCE, A Response to Commissioner Haight
Jonathan Becker, Colleges Should Promote and Defend Student Voting


2012: Class Action Lawsuit, Students vs. Dutchess County BOE

During the 2012 election season, voter registration forms were rejected from Bard, Culinary Institute of America, Marist and Vassar students. With the help of the NYCLU, a class-action lawsuit was filed against the Dutchess County Board of Elections. The affected students successfully challenged a decision by Dutchess County Republican Elections Commissioner Erik Haight to reject their applications because they didn't list their dormitory name.
Dutchess college students win voting rights suit with federal court settlement
NYCLU Press Release on Bard Students' Lawsuit against Dutchess County Board
US District Court Complaint
Settlement between Commissioner Haight and Bard Students 
Students and Faculty Purged from Rolls


November 3, 2009: Student Intimidation

In 2009, voter intimidation and a poorly written legal decision by Judge Brands in Poughkeepsie led to students being needlessly challenged at the ballot box. Many of those challenged students were required to vote via affidavit ballot, even if living at the exact same address where they were registered. This was an effective tool, as affidavit ballots are frequently disqualified over technicalities during the counting process.
This video was taken by a local attorney who was intervening on behalf of student voters:
Bard Students Unhappy with voting Hassle
Voter Suppression, Dutchess Style
New York Supreme Court Ruling in Favor of Student Petitioners


1999-2000: Students Denied Right to Vote Locally

In 1999, Bard and Vassar students joined together to challenge Republican Election Commissioner William Paroli Sr.'s illegal impediments to student voter registration. In 2000, a bipartisan county legislative committee looked into the matter and concluded unanimously that not only do students have the right to vote locally, but "The Dutchess County Board of Elections should encourage the use of voting franchise among students." Even so, it took Paroli's conviction on an unrelated felony to produce change and allow students the right to vote where they live, work and study.
Student Activists for Voting Equality Campaign Overview (1999)
Poughkeepsie Journal Article on Voting Campaign (1999)
Dutchess County Executive Response Letter (2000)
Report from the Dutchess County Legislature Committee on Student Voting (2000)
Residence Questionnaire