WASHINGTON, D.C. — Today, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) filed a lawsuit challenging multiple New York election practices that lead to a high rejection rate of absentee ballots for reasons unrelated to a voter’s eligibility. Historically, New York has had a pattern of poor election administration. More recently, a 2021 report by the New York State Senate Elections Committee found that the state’s “system of election administration has routinely fallen short in ways that have shaken public confidence, limited participation, and even disenfranchised voters.” In response to past litigation, New York amended some of its election laws. However, in the 2020 election, New York had the third highest rejection rate of absentee ballots in the country, highlighting that certain practices still persist that lead to the rejection of absentee ballots cast by lawful, registered voters.
The DCCC is challenging some of the practices that lead to the unnecessary rejection of absentee ballots, arguing that they unconstitutionally burden and even disenfranchise voters in violation of the First and 14th Amendments and Civil Rights Act of 1964. Specifically, the lawsuit alleges that the state fails to provide an opportunity for voters to cure purely technical defects with their ballot — defects that are easy to address but not currently defined as “curable” under New York election law and guidance, such as an undated or misplaced signature. The lawsuit points out that, out of the 66,746 absentee ballots that were rejected during the 2020 general election, up to 50,000 absentee ballots were rejected for “uncurable” reasons — meaning the voter had no opportunity to fix the defect.
The DCCC also challenges the state’s practice of rejecting ballots that are invalid solely because a voter followed incorrect directions from election officials or the New York Board of Elections. Finally, the DCCC argues that discarding a ballot for arbitrary reasons, such as returning it outside the voter’s registered county or polling district or because the U.S. Postal Service failed to postmark it, has led to unnecessary disenfranchisement of voters, particularly voters of color and voters who speak English as a second language. The lawsuit asks the court to order election officials to either accept ballots or provide cure opportunities in the challenged scenarios and require training for election officials to ensure that uniform practices are adopted across the state.