“College Leaders Urged to Act on Campus Voting Sites”

Bard News:

letter sent today to higher education leaders across New York State calls on them to help fulfill the promise of 2022 legislation designed to promote poll sites on college campuses across New York State. It urges them to take concrete steps prior to the March 15 State deadline for county Boards of Election to designate poll sites for the 2024 federal elections to ensure compliance with the 2022 law. The letter was sent by Jonathan Becker, Bard College Vice President for Academic Affairs, Professor of Politics, and Director of the Bard Center for Civic Engagement in cooperation with youth and voting rights advocates, including: the Andrew Goodman Foundation, Brooklyn Voters Alliance, Center for Law and Social Justice at Medgar Evers College, Citizens Union, Democracy Matters, GenVote, NYPIRG, NYVote/Next Generation Politics, Stand Up America, Partners for Campus-Community Engagement, and Vote Early New York.

In April of 2022, New York State Governor Kathy Hochul (D), approved budgetary legislation that contained several pro-voting measures, including one that mandates poll sites on college campuses in New York with more than 300 registered voters. The legislation was hailed by voting rights activists who hoped it would enhance youth voter turnout and halt discriminatory practices directed at college-age voters by county Boards of Election.

Unfortunately, as two recent studies show, state and local election administrators have not adequately prioritized or fully implemented this critical voter protection legislation: the vast majority of colleges in New York state do not have on-campus poll sites and there has been almost no change since the passage of this legislation.

A team of Rutgers Law School clinical students, under the supervision of Prof. Yael Bromberg, Esq., surveyed Boards of Election about the availability of on-campus poll sites across New York State before and after the new mandate. The study found only a minor increase (2.2%) in the presence of on-campus poll sites between the 2018 and 2022 elections, when the law came into effect.

Results of a follow-up study released today by the Bard College Center for Civic Engagement, conducted after the 2023 elections, also demonstrated little progress. The study, which involved surveys of Boards of Election and college administrators, found negligible change in on-campus poll sites from the period between the November 2022 elections and the November 2023 elections, an interval during which for the first time the law mandating poll sites on college campus would be in effect for the annual March 15 State deadline for assigning polling places. It found that since the legislation mandating poll sites has gone into effect, only three campuses could be identified that have added poll sites: Hostos Community College and Brooklyn College, which are part of the CUNY system, and Vassar College in Dutchess County, which only gained a poll site after litigation was initiated by a faculty member and supported by the League of Women Voters. The Madison County Board of Elections indicated that it is considering adding poll sites to Colgate University and SUNY Morrisville this round of poll assignments. In all, among the 65 private institutions who have more than 1,000 undergraduates enrolled, only fifteen institutions, or 25%, have on-campus poll sites. The four-year public institutions surveyed with more than 1,000 students have better rates at just under 50% for regular or early voting. Community Colleges which have on-campus residences have very low rates, at around 16%, though the lower density of residents helps explain the outcome. In all, 38% of public institutions surveyed have polling sites on campus….

Share this: