Gov. Hochul signs law expanding early mail-in voting in New York state

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NEW YORK — Gov. Kathy Hochul signed a bill Wednesday opening up the state’s early voting period to include mail-in balloting, prompting an immediate legal challenge from Republicans who said the measure was unconstitutional.

The law, which takes effect immediately, would expand New York’s mail voting regime beyond absentee ballots — which are limited to a select group of New Yorkers, including people who are ill or staying somewhere outside the county they’re registered to vote.

Hochul said the law would strengthen New York’s democratic systems and make it easier for people with packed schedules to fulfill their civic responsibility.

About 35 states offered no-excuse mail-in vote options before New York, according to the Institute for Responsive Government, a nonprofit.

Hochul expressed disappointment that New York was not at the forefront of mail-in voting access, but said, “We’re going to right the wrong of the past.”

“It’s finally time that people can vote by mail,” she declared at a news conference in lower Manhattan. “We know that everyday people are so busy.”

New York Republicans responded with a complaint, filed in Albany Supreme Court on Wednesday, that asserted the law violated provisions of the state Constitution.

The suit cited Article 2 of the Constitution, which says the Legislature can create an absentee balloting path for voters who are not able to vote on Election Day.

“Kathy Hochul and extreme New York Democrats are trying to destroy what is left of election integrity in New York,” U.S. Rep. Elise Stefanik, a Trump-aligned upstate Republican and plaintiff in the suit, said in a statement.

Her office asserted that the change to the state’s mail-in voting system required a constitutional amendment.

Democrats brushed off the legal challenge, presenting it as a baseless effort by anti-Democratic forces.

“Unsurprisingly, this new law is being opposed by the usual suspects: Trump loyalists and insurrection apologists,” state Sen. Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat and the deputy majority leader, said in a statement.

Gianaris added that the challengers’ “disdain for our democracy is well-established.” Stefanik voted to overturn the 2020 presidential election.

Hochul, signing the bill at New York Law School, cracked: “It’s a growth business: suing the governor of New York.”

“It does not deter us,” Hochul told reporters. “There will always be individuals who are trying to undermine our efforts to expand access to the ballot box.”