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Voter suppression charged in Monticello; judge dismisses lawsuit

By Fritz Mayer
January 23, 2014

On Friday, January 24, Judge Michael McGuire dismissed a lawsuit filed by Rochelle Massey over the change of location of the polling place for the Democratic primary to be held on Tuesday, January 28. Massey said she would not appeal because it would add confusion to where the voting will occur. The previous story appears below.

One of the candidates in the Monticello Democratic primary, which is scheduled for Tuesday, January 28, is charging that election officials are attempting to suppress minority voting in the village by changing the location of the polling place.

A press release from attorney Michael Sussman released on January 23 said, "In advance of Tuesday's Democratic primary for Village Board positions in Monticello, the long-time polling place, used by most members of the African American and other minority communities, has been closed for voting.

"In a maneuver reminiscent of the Deep South, those in control [and their identities are not yet entirely clear] have arranged to conduct the election at the Monticello Firehouse on the other side of town, rather than to utilize the usual polling site for primaries, the Ted Stroebele Community Center.

"Responding to this development, incumbent Trustee Rochelle Massey, who is running for election, is initiating a lawsuit to stop the primary until the Stroebele Center is again opened for voting. 'We cannot allow disenfranchisement of voters,' Massey remarked. 'I am amazed that the power structure in our town and county believe we are asleep and will not act to protect our right to vote. We have voted from the Center for years, at least two decades. This is a vital part of our community. The only reason for this change is to disenfranchise voters.'"

Massey is the long-time girlfriend of Mayor Gordon Jenkins, and she was appointed to the position of trustee last year. Massey is being opposed by Oswald Allen, Jill Kenny-Weyer and Douglas Solomon. Weyer and Solomon have been endorsed by an ad-hoc organization called Monticello United, which was created by the four registered political parties in the Town of Thompson. This occurred in the wake of Jenkins' well-publicized arrest for driving while intoxicated, which made national headlines.

According to the statement from Sussman, "The legal proceedings will commence on Thursday, only two days after Massey fortuitously learned that there will only be a single polling place absent court intervention."

Statement from Ann Prusinski, Sullivan County Board of Elections

With regard to the action brought against the Board of Elections by candidate and incumbent Trustee Rochelle Massey I wish to express my dismay at being included in what I consider to be a belligerent approach to the democratic process whereby Ms. Massey has resorted to legal wrangling and allegations of racism over genuine leadership.

Primaries for village elections are conducted by a political party in accordance with their own committee rules. And while the Board of Elections has assisted Thompson Town Chair Bill James in running an open, honest and fair election on behalf of the voters of the village, as we would assist ANY chair contending with the same circumstances, we assume no role beyond assistance.

The poll site chosen to accommodate the January 28th election is a BOE certified poll site, is ADA accessible and affords adequate parking, convenience and security to all village voters as they determine the fate and future of Monticello.

Ann Prusinski
Commissioner of Elections