State of New York

New York Newburgh Town Board Electoral Method Challenge

Clarke v. Town of Newburgh

Lawsuit filed on behalf of six Black and Hispanic voters against the Town of Newburgh and the Newburgh Town Board challenging the at-large system for electing members of the town board under the New York Voting Rights Act (NYVRA). The Newburgh Town Board is the five-member legislative and policy making body for the town. The plaintiffs allege that voting in Newburgh’s town board elections is racially polarized, with Black and Hispanic voters supporting different local candidates than white voters. They argue that the at-large system unfairly favors white voters and dilutes the political power of Black and Hispanic voters, in violation of the NYVRA. 

On Jan. 26, 2024, the plaintiffs sent a letter to notify the town that the at-large electoral system potentially violated the NYVRA. Once a town receives NYVRA notification letter, the town board must pass a resolution that proposes a plan to address the violation within 50 days. The town must enact a remedy within 90 days of the resolution and remains immune from any legal action during the 90-day period. On March 15, 2024, within 50 days of receiving the NYVRA notification letter, the Newburgh Town Board passed a resolution to conduct an investigation into the potential violation, but did not offer a plan for if and when it would replace the at-large system. The plaintiffs argue this resolution does not meet the NYVRA requirements to avoid a lawsuit.

The plaintiffs ask the court to block the use of the at-large system in future town board elections and order Newburgh to implement a new electoral method in time for the town’s 2025 elections.

Case Documents

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