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N.Y. Early Voter Rights: Stay On Line, Ask for Accessible Accomodations

Polling Place
Richard Drew

The Suffolk County Board of Elections has received around a dozen calls from voters concerned about seniors and people with disabilities who want to cast their ballot ahead of Election Day. They say it's difficult for voters to endure hours-long wait times and long lines that may linger after close of polls. 

Suffolk County’s 12 early voting locations continue to see a steady stream of voters who want to cast their ballot ahead of Election Day, after more than 50 thousand people turned out for the first weekend of early voting in New York history.  

Nicholas LaLota is the Republican Commissioner of the Suffolk County Board of Elections. LaLota says voters will typically allow older voters or voters with disabilities to head to the front of the line. 

“There is no law that allows or requires Boards of Elections to place voters with disabilities at the front of the line," LaLota said. 

The Federal Americans With Disabilities Act guarantees access to polling locations and local poll workers are expected to honor accodmodations if requested by a voter. The U.S. Department of Justice Civil Right's Division has not updated its checklist for compliance with the ADA at polling locations since 2016 and does not mention protocols for long voter lines.

"Fortunately, here on Long Island, common sense and courtesy have prevailed," LaLota said.

Lotta also says any voter who is on line before closing time has the right to cast a ballot.

“Their rights are preserved so long as they're in line," LaLota says, "They will be afforded the right to vote, so long as they're in line by the time polls officially close.”

LaLota says voters should contact the Board of Elections and law enforcement if a poll worker tells them they have to leave the line before the polls close for the day. He says the board has not received any reports of voters being turned away before closing time, which vary based on this county schedule.

About 36,000 Suffolk residents have cast ballots during the first three days of early voting. Nassau County had 60,000 early voters.

This story was produced with ProPublica’s Electionland Tip Line. Go to wshu.org to leave a tip.

Desiree reports on the lives of military service members, veterans, and their families for WSHU as part of the American Homefront project. Born and raised in Connecticut, she now calls Long Island home.