Ruling by New York Judge stops early counting of absentee ballots

A New York judge has ruled that election boards in the state must stop counting absentee ballots early because COVID is not a constitutional excuse for doing so.

In the ruling on Friday, Saratoga County Supreme Court Justice Dianne Freestone, a Republican, wrote that the Democrat-run legislature “appears poised to continue the expanded absentee voting provisions of New York State Election Law … in an Orwellian perpetual state of health emergency and cloaked in the veneer of ‘voter enfranchisement.”

She ordered election officials to stop counting absentee ballots early and to preserve them until Election Day, November 8, to be counted at that time.

The early counting rule was implemented because of long waits for results in New York due to a record number of absentee ballots during the pandemic.

Absentee voting on the rise

The convenience of absentee voting, where it is allowed, has led to many people continuing the practice even after the need for it has ostensibly ended.

This means that delays in recording results may persist in the midterms and future elections, but the judge did not see that as a reason to allow early counting.

The rationale against early counting is that it could sway those who haven’t voted yet. They may think their vote is not needed if it seems like their candidate is way ahead, or may be motivated to vote if their candidate seems behind.

More than 19% of votes cast in New York in 2020 (1.7 million) were absentee ballots; that’s about one in five voters. It is not known whether those numbers will go up or down this year.

“Red October”

Republicans seem poised to make significant gains in the midterms, with the New York Times calling it a “Red October” and even former Biden Press Secretary Jen Psaki lowering expectations for Democrats to hold onto power.

“Here’s the thing about elections: When they break, they usually break in one direction. And right now, all the indicators on my political dashboard are blinking red — as in, toward Republicans,” Blake Hounshell wrote in the Times.

While Republicans are not a lock to regain control of the Senate, regaining a majority in House seems extremely likely just two weeks before Election Day.