We are getting a disturbing idea of how long it will take political parties to win the narrow elections in the 50th district of the Senate. Albany attorneys float above the Onondaga and Cayuga counties’ electoral boards as postal votes are opened to invalidate hundreds, possibly thousands, of Central New York’s votes.
Correctly. They are here to let you know that your vote may not count.
It is a nakedly partisan process, as captured in a video, in which attorney for the New York Senate Republican Conference, Robert Farley, withdraws his objection to a postal vote as soon as he is told that the 96-year-old voter is running for president Donald Trump handed in.
Reasons for dealing with ballot papers are legion: “lucky guy” on paper, illegible signatures, handling ballot papers stored in drop boxes and even the constitutionality of applying for a postal vote online during a global pandemic – an objection that, albeit severe, should have been raised well before election day.
In other words, the challenges are not a good faith effort to find electoral fraud. They are a malicious effort to thwart the intent of the voters who voted for the other party’s candidate. This goes beyond politics. It affects people’s constitutional right to vote.
A judge ultimately decides which ballots count and which don’t. We count on the court to reject these ill intentions and honor the good intentions of every voter.
We’re not just talking about paper here. Each ballot represents a person who has managed to exercise their right to vote despite a global pandemic and many procedural barriers to casting a postal ballot.
New York’s notoriously restrictive voting rules have been relaxed this year to allow people fearful of the coronavirus to send in postal ballot papers instead. The legislature has changed the electoral law to the effect that the electoral commissioners of the district can count ballot papers with minor defects, as long as the voters “essentially comply” with the rules. The intent of the law was to stop “hypertechnical legal challenges for ballot papers” that deny people the right to vote. It is clear that the law is not working as intended.
Since postal votes will continue to exist here even after the end of the pandemic, the legislature must update the electoral law in order to grant postal and personal voters the same protection. Mail voters are more scrutinized – and more likely not to have their votes counted – than voters who appear at the polling station. The mechanism for contesting ballots must not discriminate against any voter class.
These frivolous campaign challenges also endanger election workers and volunteer campaigners as they crowd around tables for days examining every item on every ballot. As if on cue, Onondaga County’s election count was suspended on Friday following coronavirus exposure.
Both ward 50 candidates, Republican Angi Renna and Democrat John Mannion, employ outside lawyers to question the validity of postal ballot papers. But don’t look for false equivalency here. So far, Democratic ballots are three times more likely to be challenged than Republican ballots, according to a database compiled by Syracuse.com’s Michelle Breidenbach.
Renna is silent about the tactic used on her behalf. Benedicte Doran, Onondaga County GOP chairman, washes her hands and says Renna’s campaign is independent of the local committee. Are we supposed to believe that they are just innocent bystanders while Albany lawyers try to disenfranchise their neighbors? Who sets the tone here?
We will not be forgotten. Also the hundreds of voters whose ballots may not be counted – and not just their votes in the 50th Senate District. Your decisions for president, congress, state assembly and local offices will also end up in the trash when these challenges arise.
You can put those unsavory voting challenges in a bucket of partisan gerrymandering and electoral cleansing. If Republicans have to do this to win elections – if they can’t win because of their candidates and ideas – then they deserve to lose.
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