WASHINGTON, D.C. — On Friday, Oct. 21, a New York judge issued a ruling in Amedure v. New York, a Republican lawsuit challenging two absentee voting laws in the state. The judge declined to block Senate Bill 7565-B (“absentee excuse law”), which permits people to vote absentee if they are concerned about contracting an illness such as COVID-19, but struck down Senate Bill 1027-A (“absentee ballot counting and challenges law”), which allows for the counting and canvassing of absentee ballots on an expedited basis and prevents legal challenges to already counted ballots. This ruling comes out of a case in which the plaintiffs — including the state Republican Party and its chairman, New York State Conservative Party and its chairman, the chairman of the Saratoga County Republican Party, county elections commissioners and other state and county Republicans) — argued that the absentee excuse law violates the New York Constitution. The plaintiffs contended that the New York Constitution does not provide a right to “vote by absentee ballot” and asserted that the law’s permission of illness as an excuse to vote absentee violates the New York Constitution. Regarding the absentee ballot counting and challenges law, the plaintiffs argued that it violates the New York Constitution because “the Legislature exceeded the authority granted to it.” The plaintiffs also invoked claims of fraud to argue that the law violates the plaintiffs’ right to free speech and “impermissibly opens the election process to the counting of invalid and improper votes, including fraudulent votes” since the law does not allow partisan watchers to “meaningful[lly] participate in the canvass.” Today, the court declined to block the absentee excuse law, meaning that voters will be able to safely vote absentee if they are concerned about contracting an illness such as COVID-19. However, the court blocked the absentee ballot counting and challenges law for violating the New York Constitution, which could open the door to voter challenges after votes are cast.
As for the absentee excuse law, the judge found that the law is constitutional and will continue to stand. Other the other hand, the judge found that the “language of [the absentee ballot counting and challenges law] conflicts with” the New York State Constitution and stated that the provision preventing legal challenges to already counted ballots “deprives any potential objectant from exercising their constitutional due process right in preserving their objections at the administrative level for review by the courts.” The judge also found that, in enacting the absentee ballot counting and challenges law, “the legislature effectively usurp[ed] the role of the judiciary” and thus struck it down.