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October 30, 2020

Lawsuit Seeks Extra Three Hours Per Day, Greater Accommodations for Voters with Disabilities

ROCKLAND COUNTY – Yesterday evening the New York Civil Liberties Union filed a lawsuit against the Rockland County Board of Elections to address long lines and inadequate accommodations for voters during early voting. Filed on behalf of the Spring Valley and Nyack branches of the NAACP and several individual voters, the suit seeks the immediate extension of poll site hours for the remainder of early voting and the addition of signage offering accommodations for voters who require them.

“In the most critical election of our lifetimes, with historic levels of voter enthusiasm, Rockland County voters are facing unacceptably long lines and onerous conditions to vote,” said Perry Grossman, NYCLU senior staff attorney. “Accessible voting accommodations aren’t an option, they’re a requirement. The County can and must still do more to make early voting a success for the thousands participating for the first time ever.”

The suit would change hours from 9am to 8pm Friday instead of 9am to 5pm and then extend Saturday and Sunday by three hours, from 9am to 5pm instead of 9am to 2pm.

One petitioner, Glenda Davis, is 72 years old and unable to stand in line to vote due to a hip replacement.

“Each day of early voting I have driven to my polling location two to three times a day to check the line, and each time it has wrapped around the building,” Davis said. “I can’t stand in a line like that for two to three hours straight. When I was at the early voting site, I never saw any sort of sign posted that people with disabilities or the elderly could go to the front of the line, but I have seen several people with canes standing at the end of the long line. If I’m not able to vote early, I may not be able to on Election Day.”

During the first weekend of early voting lines in Rockland were particularly long, and turnout to polling sites this upcoming weekend are expected to increase. New York regulations dictate that County boards deploy sufficient resources to ensure voters do not wait more than 30 minutes, but thus far Rockland County has failed to abide by that requirement.

Reporting from the Journal News this week revealed that voters with patent disabilities were waiting in lines without being offered accommodations, which are also required under state law.

“No one should be deterred or prevented from voting because of preventable barriers or lack of legally-required accommodations,” said Donna Lieberman, NYCLU executive director. “The accessibility of our voting sites reflects the health of our democracy, and we will do everything in our power to make sure every voter can cast their ballot.”

Voters statewide have experienced long lines at polling sites, and various boards of election have taken steps to alleviate delays. In New York City, Westchester, Onondoga and Schenectady Counties, hours for early voting during the weekend have already been extended to increase availability and reduce wait times.

You can find case materials here: https://www.nyclu.org/en/cases/spring-valley-naacp-v-rockland-county-board-elections