Truxton residents will once again be able to vote Tuesday at the Truxton fire station after a judge ruled that the Cortland County Board of Elections failed to give party chairs an opportunity to be heard before consolidating that polling site with one in Cuyler.
“I think small towns are really under attack in a lot of ways, this is one example,” said town Supervisor Lloyd Sutton. “There’s something American about going to the polling place and casting your vote.”
The town board voted unanimously June 4 to file suit against the Board of Elections, which consolidated several polling locations in the county for the June 23 presidential primary. That change included moving Truxton’s polling place to the Cuyler fire station.
“A number of subsequent developments resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic posed significant challenges to the BOE (Board of Elections) for conducting the June primary,” state Supreme Court Justice Mark Masler said in court documents published Monday.
Republican Commissioner Robert Howe said the changes were made because the county does not have enough machines or poll inspectors needed for the primary.
“In addition to social distancing requirements, the BOE learned in May that the Democratic presidential primary would be held on June 23, which would require an additional voting machine at each polling place,” court documents state. “The BOE, which typically has approximately 160-170 poll inspectors available for an election, also learned that, due to concerns about COVID-19, only 75 qualified poll inspectors would be available to work at the June primary.”
However, the town argued that the Board of Elections did not properly notify it of the change under election law.
“We notified them, but apparently we were supposed to contact the town supervisors and talk to them and the party chair,” Howe said.
While Masler said voters were notified in a timely manner, he agreed that a reasonable opportunity was not provided to chairpersons of the political parties to be heard on the issue.
“This admitted failure to comply with the procedure mandated by statute is alone sufficient to require annulment of the BOE’s determination without allowing for consideration of the merits of that decision,” court documents state.
Howe said that this decision doesn’t change the consolidation of the rest of the polling sites.
“It’s a little late for us to turn on a dime, now,” he said.
Sutton said the town is working with the Board of Elections to find poll inspectors and that voters received a card in the mail letting them know the polling site was switched back.
Howe said the town of Virgil had sent a letter voicing concerns over having to consolidate its polling place with Harford, with Harford residents having to go to Virgil to vote.
“We understand their concern, we’ll address their letter when we get through with all this going on,” Howe said. “In my opinion, this is a time for towns to pull together through this. I appreciate the towns that are going along with the consolidation.”
Howe said he is hoping that this won’t happen in November.
“But again it’s all up in the air because we don’t know what the governor will do,” he said. “This is not something Tom (Brown, the Democratic commissioner) and I cooked up. We’re doing the best we possibly can.”