Court Requires Counties To Make

Attorney General Spitzer today hailed a decision by a federal judge that requires Schoharie and Delaware counties’ polling places to comply with the New York State Election Law and the Americans with Disabilities Act prior to state’s Presidential Primaries.

Spitzer sought a preliminary injunction to modify polling place accessibility in an effort to bring the counties into compliance for the election primaries scheduled for March 7, 2000. The injunction was granted on February 8 by Senior Judge Howard G. Munson of the Northern District of New York. The suit followed years of informal efforts to work with the counties to achieve compliance.

"This suit was brought because the civil rights of New Yorkers with physical disabilities were being violated and they were denied their right to vote. In addition, the elderly, and those who use a walker, cane, or wheelchair were also being denied a fundamental right of participation," said Spitzer. "This decision will ensure that their rights are maintained."

The order directs Delaware and Schoharie counties to comply with the ADA Accessibility Guidelines for Buildings and Facilities, and the New York State Uniform Fire and Building Code by the March primaries.

Judge Munson, citing seasonal weather conditions, provided some modest limitations to the order. However he none the less directed specific modifications such as creating sufficient accessible parking; installing door handles designed for ease of operation by persons using wheelchairs or walkers; and providing temporary ramps with handrails and non-slip surfaces. Judge Munson further noted that failure of the counties to comply could result in sanctions and monetary penalties. The lengthy and detailed decision rejected each of the counties’ arguments including that the Attorney General’s demands were unnecessary and "overly bureaucratic."

Spitzer brought the suits in late 1999 following an extensive survey of polling places in Schoharie and Delaware counties. The survey was conducted with the assistance of the Catskill Center for Independence, an independent living center in Oneonta.

The matter was handled by Assistant Attorneys General Carrie H. Cohen, Tynia D. Richard, and Ruti K. Bell of the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau; and was overseen by Deputy Bureau Chief Mark G. Peters, and Bureau Chief Andrew G. Celli, Jr.

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