An appeal to the State Supreme Court to reverse a Board of Elections (BOE) decision not to offer early in-person voting on the Island has been rejected.
Justice David Reilly issued an opinion upholding the BOE’s decision, saying Shelter Island residents could opt to vote prior to Election Day, Nov. 3, on either the North or South forks or vote by absentee ballot if they can’t get to the polls on Nov. 3. Supervisor Gerry Siller was joined in the appeal to the Supreme Court by Congressman Lee Zeldin (R-Shirley), Assemblyman Fred Thiele Jr. (I-Sag Harbor), State Senator Kenneth LaValle (R-Port Jefferson) and a host of elected officials from area towns, including former assemblyman and now Brookhaven Supervisor Ed Romaine.
All argued that the need to use a ferry to get to vote early in person would be a severe hardship to many elderly and/or infirm Islanders.
The BOE, in the original decision, said money was better spent by limiting the number of sites in the county for early voting.
Justice Reilly upheld that decision, arguing that it was not sufficiently compelling to overturn the BOE’s stance.
“It’s clear from the decision that the BOE did not follow the proper procedure in determining where to locate the early voting sites,” said Town Information Officer Det. Sgt. Jack Thilberg. Furthermore, while the Shelter Island site was eliminated, three sites were added in the western towns in Suffolk County, he said.
“The court dismissed the town’s arguments that 40% of registered voters in the town utilized the early voting site during the last election and more are expected this year because of the presidential election and the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic,” Det. Sgt. Thilberg said. “The decision opines that Island voters still have access to absentee ballots and Election Day voting. Additionally, the court accepted the Board of Election’s argument that Island voters can use early voting sites in other towns without comment as to how the difficulties of leaving the Island would affect the elderly, the infirmed or the quarantined.”
The Town Board doesn’t believe that just because Shelter Island is small it should have less access to early voting, Det. Sgt. Thilberg said.
“The court failed to appreciate the unique challenges faced by Island voters separated from early voting by a body of water that can only be traversed by ferry,” he said.
The town is considering all options, including an appeal to the New York Appellate Decision, Second Department, he said.