New York Albany County Absentee Ballot Processing Challenge
Hochul v. Bledi
Lawsuit filed by New York Gov. Kathy Hochul (D), Sen. Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.), Rep. Paul Tonko (D-N.Y.), the New York State Democratic Committee and two Albany County voters against the Albany County Board of Elections and its Republican commissioner seeking to compel the county to process (meaning review and prepare) absentee ballots for counting on Oct. 28 (the day before the first day of early voting begins), as required by New York Law. The petitioners allege that the defendants’ refusal to process absentee ballots contravenes New York law, which “requires that absentee ballots received and processed [on a rolling basis every four days] before early voting starts must be scanned into the counting machines on Friday, October 28.” The petitioners further assert that the Republican Albany County commissioner is refusing to comply with her duties under state law, which mandates that both a Democratic and Republican county commissioner participate in the processing of absentee ballots. Notably, the law (Senate Bill 1027-A) upon which the petitioners’ claims rest, which requires the early processing and counting of absentee ballots among other provisions, was struck down by a state trial court on Oct. 21 after Republicans filed a lawsuit challenging the statute. However, the law is back in effect pending appeal, per an intermediate appellate court order that stayed (paused) the lower court’s decision to strike down the law. Therefore, the petitioners note that, given the stay of the Oct. 21 decision, county boards of elections must count and process absentee ballots in accordance with state law. The petitioners ask the court to issue a writ of mandamus (a court order compelling a party to take a certain action) that requires the Albany County Board of Elections and its Republican commissioner to process and count absentee ballots in compliance with their legal obligations under New York law.
On Friday, Oct. 28, just twenty four hours after the lawsuit was filed, the Republican commissioner in Albany County agreed to process and count absentee ballots as required by state law, pending any further rulings on the legality of Senate Bill 1027-A.