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State Supreme Court justice finds absentee ballot laws partially unconstitutional

Oct 23, 2022 1:01 am

Joshua Solomon reports for the Times Union that state Supreme Court Justice Dianne L. Freestone on Oct. 21 issued a split ruling finding that New York's absentee ballot laws are partially unconstitutional, a decision that will create some disorder during the upcoming midterm election in which mail-in voting is already underway. Freestone's decision stopped short of overturning a change in Election Law that allows someone to vote by absentee ballot if they fear contracting COVID-19. She highly criticized the measure, but said it could not be undone right now. Democratic officials immediately filed a notice of appeal on Friday night. The case, which may be resolved by the state Court of Appeals, is expected to move quickly because in-person voting begins Oct. 29 and ends Nov. 8. Freestone's ruling struck down a 2021 state law around the canvassing of absentee ballots. For now, the ruling will reinstate some of the laws that were in effect before the recent changes, including allowing someone to vote in person on Election Day to override any absentee ballot they may have submitted. Republican officials argue that provision is important because it allows a voter who learns something damning about a candidate before the election to change their vote. The ruling also gives the clearer ability for poll watchers, candidates and others to contest a ballot in court. The order, for now, directs boards of election to preserve absentee ballots. That may mean absentee ballots will not be counted until after Election Day or until a final court decision is made. "This decision helps uphold the integrity of the electoral process, a major victory for New York voters and the rule of law," state Conservative Party Chairman Gerard Kassar said in a statement. Democratic officials with the governor, attorney general, Board of Elections, state Senate and Assembly did not immediately release statements in response to the ruling. The case could have major consequences for the general election, which features contested races up and down the ballot that could tilt the political balance in Washington, D.C. Read the full story in the Times Union.

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