POUGHKEEPSIE – The League of Women Voters, a Vassar College professor, and a Vassar student successfully won a lawsuit on Thursday in Dutchess County Supreme Court that forced the Dutchess County Board of Elections to establish a polling place on the college campus. State law requires that colleges with more than 300 students residing on campus be provided a polling place on the school grounds.
Dutchess County Republican Elections Commissioner Erik Haight refused to abide by the state law, triggering the lawsuit. Despite the ruling, Commissioner Haight has failed to obey the court order and is seeking to prevent the polling site from being placed on the Vassar campus.
As Democratic Commissioner Hannah Black worked to establish a campus voting site this past Friday, Haight did not cooperate, “in willful disobedience of a court order,” according to Democratic Election Law Attorney Michael Treybich.
On Saturday, Haight and his attorney sought a “stay” of the court’s decision. Haight’s argument was that he was being forced to shut down the two other polling places, one on LaGrange Avenue and one on New Hackensack Road to move the machines to the college. Judge D’Alessio clarified her ruling, saying that the two existing polling places would remain operational and the board of elections, pursuant to state law, was required to place voting machines on the campus. The judge reiterated the need for a polling place on campus.
On Monday, Commissioner Black told Mid-Hudson News that a few of the voting machines were being relocated from the United Methodist Church on New Hackensack Road and the Dutchess County Water and Wastewater Authority Office on LaGrange Avenue to the Aula Room in Vassar College’s Ely Hall building, to accommodate both student voters and voters in the Town of Poughkeepsie election districts 6-2, 6-3, and 6-4. Voters in those districts can vote at the college or their traditional polling places.
On Monday afternoon at 4:45 p.m., Haight filed a motion seeking a “stay” of the court order, in an attempt to prevent the college polling place from operating on Tuesday. The polls are set to open less than 14 hours after Haight’s motion was filed.
“This is a Hail Mary attempt by Commissioner Haight to discourage Vassar College students from voting on campus, despite a state law that allows them to do so,” said Treybich. “He should be held in contempt of court, which carries a sentence of up to six months in jail.”
When contacted Monday evening and asked if he had just filed the request to prevent the polling place, Haight, without answering the question, told Mid-Hudson News, “A few hours ago Judge D’Alessio modified her vague order from last week offering just enough clarity for the BOE to comply, which is what we are trying to do. I can’t guarantee what we’ve accomplished in a short amount of time will be effective because the court left us no time to adhere to our quality control procedures.”
Commissioner Black noted that any voters who encounter obstacles at the Vassar College polling site or any other polling site in Dutchess County can call the County Board of Elections on Tuesday morning, beginning at 5:00 a.m. at 845 -4856-2473 to file a complaint.