An upstate New York judge ruled that citing fear of catching COVID-19 is no longer a valid excuse to continue thwarting the state’s election law regarding absentee ballots.
Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice Dianne Freestone, a Republican, ordered local election boards to stop counting absentee ballots they’ve already received. Freestone directed the election officials to preserve the absentee ballots until after Election Day, November 8, or after a Republican lawsuit is resolved.
Her ruling did not invalidate ballots already mailed, according to a Fox News report.
New York’s Republican and Conservative parties, along with many like-minded officials, filed a legal challenge in Saratoga County’s Supreme Court one year after a proposed state constitutional amendment allowing no-excuse absentee voting was rejected by voters.
The plaintiffs asked the court to rule Chapter 763 of 2021 state laws and Chapter 2 of the state’s 2022 laws unconstitutional, further arguing Chapter 763 conflicts with other existing state statutes.
Republicans claim Chapter 2, which authorizes absentee voting on the basis of fearing COVID-19, violates the state Constitution.
Freestone ruled in favor of the Republican and Conservative plaintiffs, declaring the Election Law changes challenged in the lawsuit violate New York’s Constitution.
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,'” Freestone wrote Friday in her ruling.
Democrats, who control both houses of New York’s legislature, have said their Election Law changes regarding absentee ballots were both for safety and to enable early counting of them.
Republicans gleefully greeted news of the favorable ruling, which comes just two weeks before Election Day.
“What we object to is mass mailing of paper ballots when they are not necessary,” NYS Assemblyman Robert Smullen told Schenectady, NY-based WRGB. “Look, the president of the United States has said the COVID-19 pandemic is over.” Smullen is one of the plaintiffs who brought the legal action.