November 1, 2004 Commissioner Robert Garfinkle Commissioner Anita Katz Suffolk County Board of Elections Yaphank, NY 11908 Dear Commissioners Garfinkle and Katz: We have received reports of organized efforts in Suffolk County to challenge voters on Election Day upon the claim that the voters are not qualified to vote. We write to request that you ensure that your poll workers are properly informed of the procedures governing challenges to voters. Under section 8-502 of the New York Election Law, a challenge to a prospective voter’s right to vote “may be made by an inspector or clerk, by any duly appointed watcher, or by any registered voter properly in the polling place.” Section 8-504 of the Election Law lays out the procedure for poll inspectors after a voter is challenged. First, a poll inspector is required to administer a preliminary oath to the voter. If the voter takes this oath, the inspector then must ask the voter questions about why her or his right to vote is being challenged. The statute then provides that if “the board” is satisfied after hearing the voter’s answers, it must permit the voter to vote. If, after the voter has answered these questions, “the board” does not believe that the voter is qualified to vote, it must indicate what it considers to be the deficiencies in the voter’s qualifications. If at this juncture the voter still wishes to vote, the poll inspector must administer the qualification oath enumerated in section 8-504 and must then allow the voter to vote. We request that you ensure that your poll workers, including especially poll inspectors, are thoroughly informed of the procedure governing voter challenges. As part of such information, we further urge that you make clear that, according to federal case law involving Suffolk County, college students, like all other voters, must be permitted to vote in the community in which they are currently living and that the “only constitutionally permissible test” for voting residence “is one which focuses on the individual’s present intention and does not require [the person seeking to vote] to pledge allegiance for an indefinite future. The objective is to determine the place which is the center of the individual’s life now, the locus of primary concern.” Ramey v. Rockefeller, 348 F. Supp. 780, 788 (E.D.N.Y. 1972). Finally, we urge that you remind poll inspectors and workers that it is a misdemeanor for any individual or group of individuals to engage in “a contrivance” that has the effect of “imped[ing], prevent[ing] or otherwise interfer[ing] with the free exercise of the elective franchise by any voter.” N.Y. Elec. Law § 17-150(2). Please forward to us copies of any comunication that you forward to your local inspectors and poll workers in this regard. Thank you for your time. Sincerely yours, Palyn Hung Arthur Eisenberg