Brooklyn assemblyman calls for removal of Board of Elections’ general counsel

July 6, 2012 Brooklyn Eagle Staff
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Says board opposes translating voting materials into Russian

Assemblyman Steven Cymbrowitz (D-Sheepshead Bay/Brighton Beach) on Friday called for the immediate resignation or termination of the board’s general counsel, Steven H. Richman, saying the board was reluctant to translate election materials into Russian.

Cymbrowitz learned that Richman asked the Board of Elections to recommend that Governor Cuomo veto legislation (A10609) requiring New York and other large cities to print ballots and other voting materials in Russian. Cymbrowitz was the bill’s sponsor.

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In New York City, voting materials are already translated into five other languages.

Cymbrowitz demanded the counsel’s removal in a strongly worded letter to Board of Elections president Maria Guastella.

“Mr. Richman’s action comes after years of inaction. The Board of Elections has refused to abide by a 2009 law, which I fought for, requiring that voting materials be translated into Russian. As the board’s top legal official, he is responsible for his agency’s failure to abide by the law,” Cymbrowitz said.

“Now, with the Legislature’s passage of stronger legislation I introduced, the Board of Elections would prefer to continue discouraging thousands of Russian-speaking New Yorkers from voting rather than developing procedures to comply with the 2009 law,” Cymbrowitz explained.
“As General Counsel, Mr. Richman must have clearly understood the 2009 law and its intent, yet he, the Board of Elections’ chief legal authority, chose to ignore it.  This is both illegal and inexcusable and cause for requesting his immediate resignation, or if this does not occur, his termination,” Cymbrowitz continued in his letter.

In general, Cymbrowitz urged the board “in the strongest terms not to stand in the way of legislation that seeks only to bring more residents into the voting process. As public servants, we have an obligation to encourage civic participation, not discourage it.”

Cymbrowitz has been working with the Russian community and his colleagues in Albany for much of the past decade to make the translation of voting materials into Russian a reality. A large percentage of his constituents are Russian-Americans.

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