Voting and Elections Explainers

The Constitutionality of the New York Early Mail Voter Act

By Richard Rifkin
December 13, 2023

With the recent enactment of the “New York Early Mail Voter Act,” there are now two conflicting provisions of law setting forth different rules regarding the ability of voters to cast their vote by mail. 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. In this explainer, Government Law Center Legal Director Richard Rifkin examines the conflict between constitutional and statutory provisions concerning elections and what it means for New York's 2024 elections.

Moore v. Harper: May State Laws Concerning Federal Elections Be Subject to State Judicial Review?

By Richard Rifkin
November 7, 2022

Among the most important cases the Supreme Court of the United States will hear this term is Moore v. Harper. The issue squarely presented is whether state courts have the authority to consider any claim relating to an action taken by a state legislature that concerns federal elections. In this explainer, GLC Legal Director Richard Rifkin examines the background and significance of this case.

Redistricting Revisited - Court of Appeals Decision in Harkenrider, et. al. v. Hochul, et al.

By Richard Rifkin
August 3, 2022

Last year, the Government Law Center issued an explainer on the redistricting of the congressional and legislative maps that was about to take place following the 2020 census. It opened by noting that “New York is about to engage in a new and untried procedure….”  It then described this procedure, which was required by a constitutional amendment that had been adopted in 2014. The explainer concluded by noting that “How this will play out is, at this point, quite uncertain.”

With the recent decision of the Court of Appeals in Harkenrider, et. al. v. Hochul, et al.,[1] we now know with certainty the end result. It did not turn out well. The Court of Appeals found failures on two issues – one procedural and one substantive. This explainer is an examination of both.

Ballot Proposal 5: Increasing the Monetary Limit on Lawsuits That Can Be Decided by the New York City Civil Court

By Patrick A. Woods
October 27, 2021

Ballot Proposal 5 on the 2021 ballot asks whether to change one word of the New York State Constitution: it will replace the word “twenty-five” with the word “fifty” in Article VI, Section 15(b).1 That revision would raise the constitutional limit on the monetary amount at issue in civil cases that the New York City Civil Court can adjudicate from $25,000 to $50,000. The change will require additional action by the Legislature to be effective and has no significant effect on voters residing outside of New York City.

New York State Voting Rights Constitutional Amendments on the November 2021 Ballot

By Richard Rifkin
October 4, 2021

At this moment in time, our country is in the midst of a vigorous and often contentious debate with regard to the right to vote. Congress has several pending bills that are hotly contested, and many state legislatures have either adopted bills or are working on bills that will affect the voting process and procedures in their states. New York, where the rhetoric has been far more subdued, has also taken some action with respect to voting. Furthermore, New York voters will get to have a say in some of the choices our state will be making.

Enforcement of the Voting Rights Act in the 21st Century

By Richard Rifkin
July 28, 2021

The Fifteenth Amendment to the United States Constitution was ratified in 1870 following the Civil War. It provides that “The right of citizens of the United States to vote shall not be denied or abridged by the United States or by any State on account of race, color, or previous condition of servitude.” In addition, it authorizes Congress to enforce its provisions “by appropriate legislation.”

Redistricting for the 2022 Elections

By Richard Rifkin
July 2021

New York is about to engage in a new and untried procedure in creating legislative and congressional districts following the 2020 census. It could make a big difference in the 2022 elections as well as in elections that follow for the next ten years and beyond.

The Supreme Court and the 2020 Election

By Richard Rifkin
August 5, 2020

In 2000, after all the votes in the presidential election had been tallied, it was clear that whoever won in Florida was going to have the majority of the electoral college votes and become the next president. The problem was that the Florida vote was exceptionally close and there were a sufficient number of disputed ballots to question the outcome in that state. The result was all-out efforts by both the Democratic and Republican parties to influence the ongoing vote count. After weeks of effort and a great deal of litigation, the United States Supreme Court eventually issued a decision that effectively made George Bush the winner over Al Gore. With that decision, Bush went on to serve two terms as president.