Judge Rules Absentee Voting Over Fear of COVID-19 Unconstitutional
Saratoga County Supreme Court Judge Dianne Freestone made a ruling that legislation permitting New Yorkers to vote by mail due to fear of COVID-19 is unconstitutional. The ruling, which was made on Friday, October 21st, said the legislature, which is controlled by the Democrats, “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.”
The ruling by Judge Freestone ordered the local boards of election to stop counting the absentee ballots they had in their possession. The ballots would have to be “preserved” until after Election Day or when a suit filed by GOP and Conservative Party leaders is resolved. The ruling did not invalidate ballots that had already been cast.
According to the NY Post, the ruling might lead to the overturning of state legislation that prevented absentee voters from changing their mailed-in votes by physically casting a vote anew on Election Day. In 2021, a proposed constitutional amendment that would have allowed absentee voting without excuses was rejected by state voters.
The decision is seen as a win for Republicans and the Conservative Party, parties which had members of their party as plaintiffs in the case.
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“The (state) constitution has been on our side and we will continue to fight to uphold the will of the voters and to ensure honest elections in New York,” said State Republican Chairman Nick Langworthy who was a plaintiff in the matter.
Conservative Party Chairman Gerald Kassar shared the same sentiments. “This decision helps uphold the integrity of the electoral process, a major victory for New York voters and the rule of law,” he said. “Absentee-ballot voters have had the right to amend their votes on Election Day for decades, and cynical attempts by Gov. Hochul and the Democrat Party to strip them of those rights were wrong,” he added.
Common Cause New York said the judge’s ruling might not go into effect for this election. “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 added.