The June 23, 2020 primary elections in New York were a mess.
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo made mail-in voting available to all eligible voters. As a result, voters submitted more than 10 times as many mail-in ballots as usual. Boards of elections—particularly in New York City—were not ready for this change. In some instances, they failed to mail absentee ballots to voters in a timely manner. Furthermore, it took an unconscionably long time to count the votes; the results of the June 23 elections were not certified by the New York State Board of Elections until 44 days later, on August 6. Worst of all, 84,108 (or 21%) of the mail-in votes cast in New York City were disqualified and did not count toward the election results. According to The Daily Signal, some mail-in ballots were disqualified because they lacked postmarks, while others did not bear the appropriate signatures.
Recently, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio said that he was “‘certain’” that the New York City Board of Elections “‘can learn from this and be prepared for the general election.’” At New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms, we find the Mayor’s confidence to be unjustified. Unfortunately, state lawmakers seem to agree with Mayor de Blasio. During a special session in late July, the Senate and the Assembly each passed a bill that would permanently expand mail-in voting for public health reasons. Bill S.8015-D-Biaggi/A.10833-Dinowitz would allow mail-in voting in circumstances when a “voter is unable to appear personally at the polling place…because there is a risk of contracting or spreading a disease that may cause illness to the voter or to other members of the public.”
New Yorkers for Constitutional Freedoms opposes this legislation and urges Gov. Cuomo to veto it. First, the bill is so vaguely worded that it could be construed to allow mail-in voting for voters who are worried about catching colds. Second, while we share the Legislature’s concern about avoiding the spread of COVID-19 on Election Day, we believe that masks, social distancing, and other precautions can be taken to alleviate that risk. As embarrassing as it is to admit this, the State of New York is not ready to competently administer a general election that allows all voters to use mail-in ballots.