New GLC Explainer Breaks Down NY Early Mail Voter Act, Potential Chaos in 2024 Elections

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Pending court decisions may have a significant impact on New York State’s ability to conduct elections.

The Early Mail Voter Act, which significantly expands access to mail-in voting, is slated to take effect on January 1, 2024. However, a lawsuit challenging the constitutionality of the new law was brought within one day of the Governor’s approval of the bill in September 2023.

The Government Law Center (GLC) at Albany Law School examines the conflict between the law and constitutional provisions concerning elections in its latest explainer, “The Constitutionality of the New York Early Mail Voter Act.” When the Early Mail Voter Act takes effect in the new year, New York would have two conflicting provisions of law setting forth different rules regarding the ability of voters to cast their vote by mail.

The New York Constitution provides that voters must vote in person at their polling place unless they are either absent from their county of residence or unable to appear due to illness or a disability. The Early Mail Voter Act will enable New Yorkers to receive an early vote mail-in ballot by mail, pending approval of an application submitted to the appropriate Board of Elections. The applicant must then vote and return the completed ballot so that it is received by the Board before the close of the polls on Election Day or, alternatively, be postmarked by that time.

“New York will face a significant problem in conducting elections in 2024, unless the courts are able to reach a final decision early next year that resolves the question of which of the two contrary provisions of law will govern,” writes author and GLC Legal Director Richard Rifkin. Without resolution of this question before the primary elections on April 2, 2024, the elections will be held without certainty. A court decision after the election could result in the rejection of mail-in votes, risking chaos and the possibility of a change in the election results.

Read the explainer here.

The explainer is the latest in a series from the GLC that concisely map out the law that applies to important questions of public policy. The GLC has also created explainers on a variety of topics, including state constitutional amendments, voting rights, government ethics reform, political redistricting in New York, immigration, aging, and policing policy, among others.

Read more here.