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Election watchdog joins court fight over New York mail balloting

(The Center Square) — A national election watchdog group has joined a pair of New York Republican Congresswomen challenging the state’s mail voting law in court.

The Public Interest Legal Foundation filed an amicus curiae brief with the state Supreme Court supporting Rep. Elise Stefanik, Rep. Claudia Tenney, and other New York elected officials in their lawsuit challenging a state law allowing universal mail voting.

The Democratic-controlled New York legislature approved a law in 2021 allowing New York voters to cast ballots through the mail. Gov. Kathy Hochul, a Democrat, signed the measure into law.

The move followed the rejection of a constitutional amendment to authorize “no excuse” balloting by mail, which failed, with more than 55% of voters rejecting the referendum.

Shortly after Hochul signed the bill, Stefanik filed a lawsuit in the state Superior Court with the New York State Republican Party, Conservative Party, and other members of the New York Republican House delegation, seeking to block the new law.

The GOP lawmakers argue that the law directly violates the New York Constitution, which only allows voting by mail if the person is out of the state or country on Election Day, sick, taking care of someone who is sick, incarcerated or because of illness or physical disability.

“Expansion of mail voting was rejected by New York voters,” J. Christian Adams, the foundation’s president, said in a statement. “Now, the New York Legislature has unconstitutionally passed a law to allow every registered voter to cast a ballot in the mail. The plain text of the New York Constitution prohibits the expansion of mail voting.”

In its legal brief, the foundation — which sued to block the expansion of mail-in voting in President Joe Biden’s home state of Delaware — sided with the GOP lawmakers’ arguments, branding the law unconstitutional.

“Granting all voters absentee status would render this text of the New York Constitution superfluous, redundant and without purpose,” lawyers for the group wrote in the 19-page legal brief.

In May, a state appellate court affirmed a lower court’s ruling dismissing the GOP-backed lawsuit, but the plaintiff filed an appeal to the state Supreme Court, which agreed to consider the legal challenge.

The foundation filed a lawsuit against Delaware in 2022 to block a similar law authorizing universal mail-in voting, arguing that the Delaware Constitution included similar provisions. In February, the Delaware Supreme Court ruled that expanding voting by mail violated the state constitution.

A group of Delaware Democrats filed a bill to authorize early and mail voting shortly after the court’s ruling, but the state House of Representatives rejected it.

“This court should follow the reasoning of the Delaware Supreme Court and refrain from allowing the Legislature to sidestep the constitutional amendment process and re-write the State’s Constitution by contrary and conflicting statutes,” the foundation’s lawyers wrote in the brief.

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