NY expands absentee voting after ballot measure defeated

Albany, NY – New Yorkers can once again choose to vote by mail rather than risk catching Covid-19 at polling places for the rest of 2022 under a bill Governor Kathy Hochul signed on Friday.

The Assembly passed Bill 100-45 on Wednesday, and the Senate passed the bill last week with a 42-21 vote. A Democrat in the Senate and two Democrats in the Assembly opposed it.

Currently, New York law only allows a person to request an absentee ballot if they will be absent from their county or New York City on Election Day, or if they are suffering from an illness, physical disability or caring responsibilities for a sick person. or disabled.

The new law again changes the definition of illness to include when a voter cannot go to a polling place because of the risk of contracting or spreading a dangerous disease. New York passed such legislation for the first time in 2020.

The Democratic governor said she plans to allow every New Yorker to vote by mail in 2022.

“Governor. Hochul is committed to restoring confidence in government and elections, which is why she has proposed a number of statewide reforms to improve access to vote and protect elections in New York,” spokeswoman Hazel Crampton-Hays said.

The passage of the legislation comes months after voters in November rejected two proposed constitutional amendments that would have allowed same-day registration to vote and permanent mail-in voting without an excuse. Democrats wielding a legislative supermajority expected both to pass easily.

“The failure of the voting rights ballot proposals in New York and the threat to voting rights in our country places an even greater responsibility on the Legislature to do the right thing and prioritize the voting reforms,” Senator Alessandra Biaggi, a Democrat representing the Bronx and Westchester, said.

A defeated amendment would have allowed lawmakers to enact same-day voter registration by removing the requirement for people to register to vote at least 10 days before an election. The other failed amendment would have removed a constitutional restriction limiting mail-in voting to New Yorkers who are ill, physically disabled or out of the country.

Democrats have passed the constitutional amendments for two consecutive years in the Legislature: a requirement to get a referendum on the ballot.

But the state’s Conservative Party ran a successful multimillion-dollar campaign against the referendum in the final days before the November election. State campaign finance reports show the party spent nearly $4.2 million on radio and online ads as of mid-October.

Conservative Party ads argued that same-day voter registration and expanded mail-in voting would weaken election security.

Democrats did not mount a statewide campaign to back the referendum — a move lambasted by suffrage supporters who have long called for the reforms.

New York took a few more steps to make voting easier last year: Hochul signed bills in December to increase the mandatory number of early voting sites and require mail-in ballots to be counted in time for unofficial results are known on election night.

Since New York implemented early voting in recent years, voting rights activists have criticized the lack of polling places and limited hours.

And in 2020, the presidential election was marred by delays as counties recorded a tsunami of mail-in ballots.

Republican state election commissioners Peter Kosinski and Anthony Casale criticized Hochul and lawmakers for passing the two laws: “These actions pose a direct threat to the integrity of the electoral process, designed to facilitate the manipulation of voters’ votes. people voting by mail. ”

A December review by the Associated Press found less than 475 potential cases of voter fraud in the six battleground states challenged by former President Donald Trump – a number that would have made no difference in the 2020 presidential election.

State Senate leaders say the Democratic majority will pass a stack of other election bills this year: from allowing portable polling stations to facilitate early voting in rural areas, to allowing local election commissions to set up mail-in ballot drop boxes.

Currently, New York only accepts voter registration applications that are postmarked 25 days before an election and received 20 days before a primary or general election.

Another bill backed by Senate Democrats would allow voters to register earlier: Election commissions could accept nominations received 10 days before a primary or general election.

The fate of other election bills is unclear.

Senator Brad Hoylman is again proposing to prohibit the use of campaign funds to pay for a candidate’s attorney fees or other costs related to criminal or civil litigation. He argued that it is unfair for donors to fund legal bills.

Hoylman’s bill was referred to the Senate Elections Committee in early January.

It has failed to pass in years, with critics pointing to the heightened threat of legal action lawmakers face.

Former Governor Andrew Cuomo said he paid $1.7 million in legal fees over the past year. That includes nearly $900,000 for his attorney Rita Glavin, who has represented Cuomo in criminal and civil investigations.

Cuomo also paid $800,000 to Sullivan & Cromwell, whose attorney Sharon Nelles helped represent Cuomo in the sexual harassment investigation launched by the state attorney general’s office.

Cuomo could ask the state to reimburse his campaign for those costs following an Albany judge’s decision to dismiss the only criminal charge against Cuomo stemming from allegations of sexual harassment.

Cuomo spokesman Rich Azzopardi said he was unsure if Cuomo would.

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