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Advocates Continue Push For More Early Voting Sites In Troy

Paul Tuthill / WAMC

Advocates are stepping up efforts for more early voting sites in Troy.

The push is being led by the League of Women Voters of Rensselaer County, which alleges the County Board of Elections is refusing to make early voting accessible and equitable to minority and low income voters. It comes about a month after the state attorney general’s office urged an expansion of early voting sites.

Renée Powell, President of the Troy Branch of the NAACP, leveled some harsh allegations Tuesday.

"What we're experiencing here in Rensselaer County is textbook voter suppression. voter suppression is defined as an effort to influence the outcome of an election by discouraging or preventing specific groups of people from voting. And this tactic is being used to make it difficult for people in the Black and brown and low income communities to exercise their right to vote. This coalition has been communicating with the Rensselaer County Board of election commissioners for at least three years to create an equitable opportunity for all people to vote to no avail."

The League's Noreen McKee says the board is not limited when it comes to establishing new sites. She says it is more important than ever to bring early voting into downtown Troy.

"We have written four letters to the commissioners of the board of elections, urging them to locate an early voting site downtown to give the voters living in the heart of Troy, particularly minority and low income voters, many of whom rely on public transportation, equal access to early voting to take advantage of the flexibility offered by nine days of voting."

McKee says the letters to the commissioners remain unanswered.

Jerry Ford is with the Troy Coalition of Black Leaders.

"It was a few years ago that I stood with my brothers and sisters of the Troy branch of the NAACP. And we went to the Rensselaer County legislators and we pointed it out, and we spelled it out. And not only did we come to point it out and expel it out, we also came with suggestions and we came with answers and to no avail. So today, we stand and we say that this must be addressed, and it must be addressed in a proper way. With this coalition, we have provided an alternative sites that would make it more equitable for the people in Troy, which only makes sense. Why would you not want to do what is right, the great John Lewis said 'it's always the right time to do what is right,' and today, we stand on that."

McKee says, as of May 1st, the deadline for announcing the location of all the polling sites in the county for this year’s elections, the early voting locations listed online haven’t changed: Brunswick, Schodack and the Holy Cross Armenian Church in Troy.

The Republican Board of Elections Commissioner for Rensselaer County told WAMC last month the Board is in compliance with the state’s early voting law, and the early voting site in Troy is on the bus line and was used by thousands of residents last election season. The BOE did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

The deadline for New York state voters to register to vote in June 22nd’s primaries is Friday. Early voting begins on June 12th.

Dave Lucas is WAMC’s Capital Region Bureau Chief. Born and raised in Albany, he’s been involved in nearly every aspect of local radio since 1981. Before joining WAMC, Dave was a reporter and anchor at WGY in Schenectady. Prior to that he hosted talk shows on WYJB and WROW, including the 1999 series of overnight radio broadcasts tracking the JonBenet Ramsey murder case with a cast of callers and characters from all over the world via the internet. In 2012, Dave received a Communicator Award of Distinction for his WAMC news story "Fail: The NYS Flood Panel," which explores whether the damage from Hurricane Irene and Tropical Storm Lee could have been prevented or at least curbed. Dave began his radio career as a “morning personality” at WABY in Albany.
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