New York Appeals Court Rejects GOP Challenges To COVID-Era Absentee Voting Laws

New York Appeals Court Rejects GOP Challenges To COVID-Era Absentee Voting Laws

With one week left before the election, a New York appeals court declined Republican groups’ challenges to New York’s absentee voting laws established during the pandemic.

The New York Appellate Division, Third Department ruled in two cases: Amedure v. New York and Cavalier v. Warren County Board of Elections. The court upheld laws allowing absentee ballots for fear of contracting COVID or other illnesses, requiring ballot processing before Election Day, and preventing legal challenges to processed ballots. The court stated that the Republican petitioners procrastinated too long to file their legal challenge in Amedure, and that granting relief would result in prejudice against certain voters. The court dismissed the Cavalier argument of unconstitutionality.

“[E]lection matters are extremely time sensitive and finding these statutes unconstitutional at this late date would impose ‘impossible burdens’ upon the State and local Boards of Elections to conduct this election in a timely and fair manner,” stated the court. “In our view, granting petitioners the requested relief during an ongoing election would be extremely disruptive and profoundly destabilizing and prejudicial to candidates, voters, and the State and local Boards of Elections.”

Amedure v. New York plaintiffs included the New York State Republican Party, New York State Conservative Party, and the Saratoga County Republican Party. They filed their complaint in late September.

Cavalier v. Warren County Board of Elections plaintiffs included Assemblyman Christopher Tague and the Schoharie County Republican Committee. They filed their complaint in mid-July.

In both cases, the GOP groups challenged the constitutionality of the pandemic-era laws.

Ahead of the ruling last week, Republican election officials resisted processing absentee ballots. According to AP News, the officials relented after a warning from New York State Attorney General Letitia James. However, the Democratic Party’s top lawyer, Marc Elias of Russiagate notoriety, took credit for making the GOP officials back down.

“We sued one county (Albany),” tweeted Elias. “Ten minutes later, they all started to back down.”

Two-thirds of Republican county election officials in New York were prepared to violate the law by refusing to process absentee ballots. We sued one county (Albany). Ten minutes later, they all started to back down. Today AP reported they all counted.https://t.co/lN1XiRtYxo

— Marc E. Elias (@marceelias) October 29, 2022

Elias’ law firm sued on behalf of Governor Kathy Hochul, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), Congressman Paul Tonko (D-NY-20), and the New York State Democratic Committee.

Following the ruling, James issued a press release praising the appeals court for ensuring that voting remains easier.

“I was proud to defend New York’s absentee ballot reforms, and am happy with the decision to keep these commonsense election integrity initiatives in place,” stated James.

A judge has ruled in our favor and rejected challenges to New York’s commonsense absentee ballot laws. These laws make it easier for New Yorkers to make their voices heard.

I will continue to defend access to the polls and ensure New Yorkers can vote.

— NY AG James (@NewYorkStateAG) November 1, 2022

Several weeks after former President Donald Trump declared the pandemic a national emergency, James pressured the state to implement automatic absentee voting.

Tuesday’s ruling is the latest development in a hotly-contested election, in which Republican challenger Lee Zeldin is neck and neck with Democrat Governor Kathy Hochul. The latest polling published Monday showed Zeldin with a slim lead of one point; voters polled were largely Democrats, outnumbering Republicans nearly two-to-one.

Not all states have defaulted to controversial pandemic-era practices.

Also on Tuesday, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court ruled that the state couldn’t accept absentee or mail-in ballots that are undated or marked with the incorrect date. Similarly, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled last month that laws allowing for no-excuse mail-in voting and same-day voter registration violated the state constitution. In July, the Wisconsin Supreme Court banned the drop boxes, following bans from Texas and New Hampshire.

According to data from the National Conference of State Legislatures (NCSL), eight states conduct universal mail-in ballot elections: California, Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, Oregon, Utah, Vermont, and Washington. Nebraska and North Dakota allow counties to choose to conduct their elections by mail. Nine states allow certain small elections to be conducted by mail: Alaska, Arizona, Florida, Kansas, Maryland, Missouri, Montana, New Mexico, and Wyoming.

America