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New York Headed Toward Expansion of Mail-In Voting

Albany -NY- The state legislature adopted a bill that the sponsors claim is designed to expand access to voting early by mail. Opponents of the measure claim that it is little more than a work-around to the statewide referendum for voting by mail, which was proposed as a state constitutional change, and was defeated by voters in 2021.

Previous to the COVID-19 pandemic, individuals were only allowed to vote absentee if they had a specific reason such as illness, disability, or absence on election day. Former Governor Andrew Cuomo swept those restrictions aside in 2020 and allowed anyone who, “feared the impact of the pandemic” to vote by mail. A record number of absentee ballots were cast in the 2020 election.

The latest measure, that awaits only the signature of Governor Kathy Hochul, would eliminate the need to provide a reason for requesting an absentee ballot. The proposed system, commonly known as “no excuse absentee voting” is controversial with Republicans raising concerns about election integrity.

In debate in the State Senate and Assembly, Republicans charged that this “no excuse” system would make fraud a virtual certainty as boards of elections lack the resources necessary to manage such a program. They also pointed to the vote by mail referendum, which was similar to this proposal, that voters in New York recently rejected. Democrats who supported the bill rejected these claims and said the change is important to boost voter participation.

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