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New York Judge: Absentee Mail Voting Due to Covid Concerns Is Unconstitutional

A New York Judge ruled that voting by mail via absentee ballots due to Covid-19 concerns is unconstitutional.

In August 2020, former Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed legislation that broadened the definition of “illness,” which included “someone concerned about catching or spreading the coronavirus,” Breitbart News reported.

However, in her 28-page opinion on Friday, Saratoga County Supreme Court Judge Dianne Freestone stated the Democrat-controlled legislature had “exceeded” the authority of the New York State constitution in how they expanded the definition of “illness” in their election laws. She further wrote that the expanded definition essentially permits any voter to qualify for an absentee ballot and that it “violates the ‘spirit’ of absentee voting.”

Furthermore, Freestone stated Democrat legislators appeared “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 judge also ordered local election boards to stop counting absentee ballots on election day and to set aside the ballots for later review.

The decision is a major win for the state Republican Party and Conservative Party, as both were listed as plaintiffs in the challenge.

State Rep. Robert Smullen (R) celebrated the ruling with the hope that it would prevent future voter fraud. He told CBS 6 Albany:

“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 Democrats immediately signaled their intention to appeal the decision and will need their case expedited through the state’s upper courts.

The ruling comes as Republican nominee Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-NY) and incumbent Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) are neck-and-neck in the polls before the November 8 gubernatorial election.

However, Friday’s ruling does not affect absentee ballots that have already been cast, the New York Post noted. “But [Freestone’s] decision could lead to the overturning of a state law that blocks people from changing their mail-in votes by showing up to cast in-person ballots on Election Day,” the outlet wrote.

Spectrum News reported that the New York board of elections has already mailed 427,000 absentee ballots to voters for the upcoming election. Over 108,000 have been returned, and 316,000 are still outstanding, but the number of returned ballots is likely to increase.

The case is Amedure v. New York Board of Elections, No. 2022-cv-2145, in the Supreme Court of Saratoga County, New York.

You can follow Ethan Letkeman on Twitter at @EthanLetkeman.

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