November 5, 2008
In what is believed to be the largest student-initiated poll-watching effort in New York City, roughly 150 students from CUNY School of Law trained in proper Federal and state voting procedures fanned out across New York City yesterday to prevent voter intimidation.
Students also participated in exit polling to learn about incidents suffered by voters.
As early as 9:30 a.m., the students’ efforts were bearing fruit. For instance, poll monitors reported that at P.S. 64 in Ozone Park, voters were asked to take their hats off in the voting area. The students reported that a voting “coordinator” at the school made a pejorative statement about African-Americans by commenting that one does not know what such voters might keep under their hats.
More than one-third of the student body of CUNY Law is participating in the voter protection effort.
(Photo, clockwise from top left): Bright Limm, president of Student Government; Leon Jacobson, president of ACLU, CUNY Law chapter; Elizabeth Boylan, Co-Chair, CUNY Law Democrats; Shirley Lin, Executive Board Member, Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA); Thuy Pham, Executive Board Member, APALSA; Tracy Sabbah, Secretary, CUNY Law Democrats.
“Today many people fear that our voting rights are easily subject to violation. For communities that historically have been disenfranchised – in particular, immigrants, people of color, and the poor – the presence of poll monitors is not only valuable but absolutely crucial,” said Bright Limm, 28, a second-year student who is president of the CUNY Law Student Government.
The students have been trained by groups including the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund (AALDEF) and the New York Democratic Lawyers Council (NYDLC). Students have been trained in Federal and New York State voter rights laws, as well as the skills of poll monitoring.
The students were placed throughout the New York metropolitan area (including Long Island and Westchester County) as well as in Pennsylvania, Ohio, Virginia, and New Jersey.
The students’ goal is to prevent the use of unlawful practices of voter intimidation and suppression such as demanding proof of citizenship, turning people away without photo I.D. when it is not required, restricting access to language interpreters, and making racist remarks to intimidate voters of color.
One-quarter of the students plan to volunteer in the areas of Richmond Hill and Ozone Park in Queens. Other Queens locations include Flushing, Hollis, Bayside, Jamaica, Jackson Heights, and Elmhurst; Midwood, Kensington and Coney Island in Brooklyn; and Chinatown in Manhattan.
(Photo l-r): Shirley Lin, Executive Board Member, Asian-Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA); Esther Rybicki (2L); Bright Limm, president of Student Government
Many CUNY Law students groups have come together to spearhead this effort, including the Asian Pacific American Law Students Association (APALSA), CUNY Law Democrats, American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) CUNY Law chapter, the South Asian Law Students Association (SALSA), National Lawyers Guild, Latin American Law Students Association (LALSA), Muslim Law Students Association, Organization of Women Law Students, Third World Orientation, Black Law Students Association (BLSA), and CUNY Law Student Government.
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