New York Court Rules Mail-In COVID Voting Unconstitutional

A New York state court judge ruled on Friday voting by mail in the Empire State due to COVID-19 concerns is unconstitutional. Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice Dianne Freestone wrote in her ruling that the state 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.”

The New York Supreme Court is the trial-level court in the state, with the Court of Appeals being the highest state court.

Freestone’s ruling ordered local election boards to halt the counting process of absentee ballots that have already been received by mail. Election officers are instructed to preserve those ballots until after the election is conducted on November 8 or until the lawsuit has been resolved through the full appeals process.

Mail-in voting was adopted as an emergency measure in 2020 in response to the COVID-19 pandemic. Lengthy delays, errors by elections officials, and litigation beset the process and resulted in long wait times for many results to become official.

The Democrats in the state legislature later passed a law providing for absentee ballots to be counted early.

New York state Rep. Robert Smullen (R) praised the ruling, saying: “Let’s hope now that they preserve our ability to make sure that our elections are done with integrity and that voters are verified.” He added that residents in the state overwhelmingly supported election integrity provisions that ensure each citizen gets one vote.

State officials filed an appeal from Freestone’s ruling on Monday. That process set up an automatic stay of execution on her ruling. The Appellate Division of the state court system will hear oral arguments in the matter in Albany next Tuesday, just one week before Election Day.

The Democrat state officials challenging the ruling are expected to argue that the mail-in rules are necessary to ensure the state can properly process votes that must be cast remotely due to the threat of COVID-19.

After the Appellate Division court decides the first appeal, the case could still move on to the state Court of Appeals, which as stated above is the highest court in the New York state judicial system.