Pitcher v. Dutchess County Board of Elections (Challenging barriers to voter registration for college students)

S.D.N.Y., Case No. 12 CV 8017 (direct)
This federal lawsuit challenges Dutchess County Board of Elections Commissioner Erik Haight’s policy of requiring local college students to identify the names of their dormitories on voter registration forms.

The NYCLU and the law firm of Lowenstein Sandler PC filed the lawsuit on Oct. 31, 2012 on behalf of four college students – who attend the Culinary Institute of America, Marist College and Bard College -- who had their voter registration applications denied because they either did not provide the technical name of their dormitory buildings or their room numbers. Approximately 100 students were similarly denied the right to register for the same reason.

The lawsuit seeks relief on behalf of the four individually named students and all similarly situated students. It asked the court to declare that the practice of denying college students the right to vote merely because they did not include a dorm name or room number unconstitutional. It also asked the court to immediately take steps to ensure that students could vote in the Nov. 6 general election.

In a bench ruling delivered on Nov. 5, 2012, U.S. District Judge Kenneth Karas granted the preliminary injunction. Judge Karas ordered the Board of Elections to immediately register students whose applications were previously denied and to send supplemental election books to polling sites by 6 a.m. Election Day so all effected students could cast ballots.

Prior to filing the lawsuit, the NYCLU sent Commissioner Haight a letter urging him to stop requiring students to provide the names of their dorms or their room numbers as it advances no legitimate interest. Haight and the county refused to act.