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A New York judge has dealt a major blow to Democratic advocates of widespread mail-in voting.
In a Monday ruling, Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice Dianne Freestone, a Republican, said that voting by mail over the fear of COVID-19 violates the state’s constitution. She wrote that the Democrat-controlled New York legislature “appears poised to continue the expanded absentee voting provisions of New York State Election Law … in an Orwellian perpetual state of health emergency and cloaked in the veneer of ‘voter enfranchisement.’”
Her 28-page ruling ordered local election boards to cease counting absentee ballots that they have already received and to “preserve” them until after the Nov. 8 midterm election date or until another lawsuit filed by state Republicans is resolved. Notably, her ruling does not invalidate ballots that local boards have already received.
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In 2020, delays, litigation, and mistakes by election boards that faced a flood of absentee ballots led to long waits for election results. The Democratic-controlled legislature eventually passed a law allowing for early counting of absentee voting.
Republicans in the state celebrated the ruling as a win for election integrity.
“Let’s hope now that they preserve our ability to make sure that our elections are done with integrity and that voters are verified and that this system of absentee balloting – just like the voters said last November that they didn’t want no-excuse absentee voting, essentially mail-in voting – that it is held to a high standard, that way to ensure that each citizen gets one vote,” New York state Rep. Robert Smullen and a plaintiff in the lawsuit said, per WRGB.
Meanwhile, top Democrats in the state have filed an appeal and are pushing for a stay in Freestone’s ruling.
Common Cause New York, a non-partisan election reform organization, said the ruling “might not even go into effect for this election,” the New York Post reported.
“And, even if it does, it would only affect the time and way absentee ballots are counted – you can still vote absentee as planned, and your ballot will still be counted,” the group noted.
Early last month, another state Supreme Court issued a key ruling ahead of the crucial midterm elections in regard to balloting changes made ahead of the 2020 contests that were unprecedented for many locations around the country.
In a unanimous decision, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled on Friday that universal mail-in balloting and same-day voter registration both violate the state constitution. “The Vote-by-Mail Statute impermissibly expands the categories of absentee voters identified in Article V, Section 4A of the Delaware Constitution. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Chancery that the Vote-by-Mail Statute violates the Delaware Constitution should be affirmed,” the court wrote.
Reports noted that while absentee voting in the state is legal, there are restrictions. For instance, voters must be unable to actually reach their polling place due to a physical disability or a chronic illness that prevents them from being able to cast a ballot in person.
“The Vote-by-Mail Statute impermissibly expands the categories of absentee voters identified in Article V, Section 4A of the Delaware Constitution. Therefore, the judgment of the Court of Chancery that the Vote-by-Mail Statute violates the Delaware Constitution should be affirmed,” the court wrote.
“The Same-Day Registration Statute conflicts with the provisions of Article V, Section 4 of the Delaware Constitution. Consequently, the judgment of the Court of Chancery that the Same-Day Registration Statute does not violate the Delaware Constitution should be reversed. The Court enters this abbreviated order in recognition of the impending election scheduled for November 8, 2022, and the Department of Election’s desire to mail ballots to voters by or around October 10, 2022,” the ruling noted further. “A more formal opinion, fully explaining the Court’s views and the reasons supporting our unanimous decision, will issue in due course. The mandate shall issue immediately.”
Ayonne “Nick” Miles, a plaintiff in the lawsuit that sought to overturn the rules implemented ahead of the 2020 elections, said the case was never about the statute itself, but the way it became law.
“This has always been about the process and the fact that the General Assembly brazenly disregarded the amendment process and thought they were untouchable and couldn’t be challenged,” Miles said. “The highest court in Delaware just put them in their place.”