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Mail it in: Universal postal voting is good for New Yorkers of all parties

We slam New York Democrats plenty (twice last week!) on their disregard for the state Constitution, but today the rotten apples are the Republicans, who are trying to block voting by mail by wrongly claiming it is prohibited by the Constitution. It most assuredly is not, a view ratified by a trial judge and now a unanimous appellate panel. The highest court in the state, the Court of Appeals, should next reaffirm it. And then let New Yorkers of all parties vote by mail.

Like many people, we voted by mail during COVID and never want to go back. Just request the ballot online, get it delivered to your residence, fill it out at your convenience and mail it back. No need to worry about making a trip when polls are open, possible long lines of people waiting and even the weather. Voter participation goes up and representative democracy is strengthened.

More and more states are moving to vote by mail and New York should join them.

First, let us explain the difference between vote by mail and absentee voting. Vote by mail is a method of casting ballots that is open to all. Absentee voting is when a voter is unable to vote in the normal manner due to being out of town or being sick or having a disability.

Eliminating the need for a special reason for absentee voting is one way to permit everyone to get an absentee ballot. And that is what the Legislature tried to do at first in a thoroughly bipartisan effort.

In 2019, the Assembly voted 136 to 9 to put a constitutional amendment before the public to permit for universal absentee voting. The state Senate vote was 56 to 5. As we said, thoroughly bipartisan. Of 43 Republican assemblymembers, only eight voted no. Among the 24 GOP senators, only five opposed.

There was no partisan advantage, though, in fact many Republicans used to think that they had an edge among absentee voters. But in 2020, during COVID, when Donald Trump erratically started claiming that mail ballots were part of some Democratic plot (they are not, as rock-solid GOP Utah was a mail ballot pioneer), some Republicans meekly decided to follow their leader.

When the constitutional amendment was before New York voters in November 2021, the measure failed, largely because the Democratic Legislature also tried to push another very bad amendment, undermining fair redistricting. Absentee voting got weighed down and was defeated.

So the Legislature and Gov. Hochul then took the other route to the same outcome while leaving absentee voting alone and established vote by mail as another means for everyone to vote. This is exactly what the GOP-controlled Pennsylvania legislature did with a Democratic governor in 1999. The Pennsylvania constitution has the same exact wording about absentee voting as New York’s and so they created universal vote by mail.

When the Pennsylvania vote by mail law was challenged, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court let it stand as simply another to way vote, while retaining the constitution’s limits on reason for absentees.

New York now faces the same situation with the same language in our Constitution. The judges at trial and on appeal got it right. The state top court needs to agree. And then GOP should go find good candidates and run good campaigns.


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