New York changes state election laws, including vote-by-mail measure voters rejected two years ago

The package included 10 laws, with the most controversial being the "New York Early Mail Voter Act," which would allow early voting by mail. It was rejected by voters but Gov. Hochul has done an end-run around New York state citizens.

Published: September 21, 2023 11:00pm

New York has enacted election laws that will substantially change the state’s elections and possibly their outcomes. One of the laws has resulted in a lawsuit by the GOP after New York voters rejected the measure as a constitutional amendment.

New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) on Wednesday signed a package of election laws that include expanding absentee voting, pushing more voter registration, and restricting election challenges.

The package included 10 laws, with the most controversial being the "New York Early Mail Voter Act," which would allow early voting by mail, also known as no-excuse absentee voting. 

In 2021, New York voters rejected a statewide referendum that would have amended the state constitution to enshrine expanded absentee ballot access.

A lawsuit was filed on Wednesday by Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.), Rep. Nicole Malliotakis (R-N.Y.), Rep. Claudia Tenney (R-N.Y.), the New York Republican State Committee, the Republican National Committee, the National Republican Congressional Committee, and others challenging the law.

Stefanik told Spectrum News that the law "reverses the will of the people."

The complaint claims that the law “is a blatant violation" of the state constitution because voters are required to cast their ballots “in person at their designated polling places unless they” are unable to do so due to being outside their county of residence (or New York City if that is their residence) or if they are ill or have a “physical disability.”

Republican New York State Senate Minority Leader Robert Ortt released a statement on Wednesday on X, formerly Twitter, calling the law an “unconstitutional vote-by-mail scheme” that “is yet another attempt by the far-left to keep themselves in power in New York State."

“The people of New York resoundingly rejected this attempt to weaken the integrity of our election process, and I am confident it will once again be rejected by the courts,” Ortt added.

Erie County Elections Commissioner, Ralph Mohr, told local ABC affiliate WKBW on Wednesday, "It's not a good idea from the Board of Election standpoint because the safeguards to prevent fraud have not been put in place. That’s why it was soundly defeated in 2021 by the voters not only in Erie County, but across the entire state."

Former Rep. Lee Zeldin (R-N.Y.) told Just the News on Thursday that the governor was going around New York voters.

“Kathy Hochul is showing an intense desire to spit in the face of voters who indicated their will across party lines not that long ago when a statewide referendum was voted on to amend the state constitution and allow no-excuse absentee balloting,” Zeldin said. He added that “New Yorkers of all walks of life showed up to vote and widely rejected it, and it failed.”

Regarding the lawsuit on the vote-by-mail law, Zeldin said, “Strictly on merits, Hochul doesn't have a leg to stand on and I’d be shocked if she didn't know that. It’s so blatantly obvious that the move made here is giving the middle finger to the voters who said they don't want it.”

One of the voter registration laws passed “requires local jails to provide voter registration information to individuals of voting age being released from a local correctional facility,” according to the governor's office.

Another law passed regarding election challenges “prohibits ‘forum shopping’ in constitutional challenges for election cases,” according to the governor's office, which lists the jurisdictions that such challenges can be brought.

Zeldin said regarding the "forum shopping" law that it “raised a whole lot of suspicion because it seems like Democrats are upset that there are judges in the New York State judicial system who aren't loyal tools of theirs.”

“Democrat legislators predominately from New York City don't want a non-activist judge to be deciding these type of cases because they lose power,” he added.

Hochul said in a statement on Wednesday regarding the election law package, “By safeguarding the integrity of our electoral process and ensuring equal access to the ballot box, we empower every New Yorker to have their voice heard. New York State remains committed to strengthening our democratic process, championing the right to vote for every citizen and cementing our place as a national leader on voting rights.”

Hochul’s office didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment on Wednesday.

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