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A new law approved by Gov. Kathy Hochul Wednesday will allows New York voters to cast ballots by mail instead of in-person for the 2024 elections — but the ink wasn’t even dry when Republican bigwigs sued to block it from taking effect.
The law will have the state Board of Elections create a program giving all registered voters the opportunity to vote early by mail in advance of an election.
Voters will be able to request mail ballots up to ten days prior to the election and election officials will then provide mail ballots with postage paid return envelopes.
But GOP elected officials quickly filed a lawsuit trying to quash the measure, saying it leaves elections vulnerable to fraud and does not pass constitutional muster.
“Kathy Hochul and extreme New York Democrats are trying to destroy what is left of election integrity in New York. . . As a New York voter, I am proud to lead this coalition in defending basic election integrity on behalf of all New Yorkers,” said upstate Rep. Elise Stefanik, the House Republican Policy chairwoman and a lead plaintiff in the case.
The lawsuit was filed in Albany state Supreme Court and other plaintiffs include the Republican National Committee, the NYS Republican Party and Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-SI/Brooklyn) among others — just moments after Hochul held a bill signing ceremony.
Previously, voting by mail — referred to as “absentee ballots” — was restricted to voters who have disabilities or were too ill to make it to the polls, or voters who were out of town and couldn’t vote in person.
The lawsuit claims the Mail-Voting Law violates the New York State Constitution requiring voters to cast their ballots in any election in person at their designated polling places, unless they were unable to do so because they were absent from the city or county during the election period or they were unable to appear because of illness or physical disability.
“These are the only exceptions to the requirements that qualified voters must vote in person,” the GOP suit says.
The suit also argues the Mail-Voting Law was enacted in defiance of the voters, who rejected a proposed constitutional amendment in November 2021 “Authorizing No-Excuse Absentee Ballot Voting.”
“New Yorkers had a chance to vote on this policy in 2021 and they overwhelmingly rejected it. The RNC and its partners are stepping in because Kathy Hochul and New York Democrats are ignoring the outcome of that vote to push an unconstitutional attack on mail-in voting safeguards,” RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel said.
But casting ballots by mail was available to all voters as an emergency measure during the coronavirus pandemic to limit the spread of the COVID-19.
Mail-in voting has become a partisan issue supported by Democrats and opposed by Republicans.
Former Republican President Donald Trump often made often unsubstantiated claims during the 2020 elections that such voting contributed to massive fraud.
But New York has experienced Board of Elections snafus with mail balloting.
A sponsor of the early mail voting law scoffed at the lawsuit.
“Unsurprisingly, this new law is being opposed by the usual suspects: Trump loyalists and insurrection apologists,” said state Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens).
“Their disdain for our democracy is well-established but we will not cede this critical ground to them as we continue to make it easier for people to vote and participate in choosing their government.”
Gianaris also said the law is legal because it creates a new process with the state Board of Elections to establish early voting by mail, and therefore does not violate the constitution.
The law would take effect on January 1 in time for the 2024 election cycle.
Perhaps anticipating litigation during a Wednesday press conference, Hochul slammed Republicans for conducting voter suppression campaigns “against marginalized communities” in states across the country “under the pretense of maintaining election integrity.”
“They’re making assumptions that certain communities are going to vote in inappropriate ways when in fact it’s simply a way to suppress the vote that they know will not be with them. I’m not being cynical, I’m stating a fact,” Hochul said.