New York Attorney General Letitia James is continuing her winning streak. This time scoring a win for voting rights after the Appellate Division, Third Department rejected challenges to the state’s laws expanding access to absentee ballots.
The plaintiffs filed a motion seeking an injunction against the Warren County Board of Elections and the New York Board of elections from sending out, or receiving, absentee ballots from those unable to appear in person at their polling place for fear of contracting the coronavirus. In 2020 the legislature expanded access to absentee ballots during the peak of the pandemic.
AG James applauded the court’s decision, saying:
“We should be taking every step possible to empower voters and ease New Yorkers’ access to the polls. I was proud to send New York’s absentee ballot reforms, and am happy with the decision to keep these commonsense election integrity initiatives in place. As Attorney General, I will always fight against efforts to infringe on the right to vote and make it harder for New Yorkers to make their voices heard.”
In March 2020, the attorney general released a statement saying, “Voters shouldn’t have to choose between their health and the right to cast a ballot.”
Thirty-three states across the nation offered absentee voting without reason in 2020. New York’s previous law only allowed vote-by-mail in extenuating circumstances.
On election day 2020, James issued an alert to voters informing them of their rights under the state’s “notice and cure” law. New York state law mandates the Board of Elections tell mail-in voters why their ballots were rejected, and give time to fix errors – some as simple as not signing the “oath” envelope.
“Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Attorney General James. “Every voter has a right to have their voice heard, and it’s important that they are empowered with information to make sure their voice is heard. With the record number of first-time absentee ballots, we hope this information proves useful to voters who may need to fix an inadvertent error with their ballot.”
Letitia James has been an advocate for voting rights in the Attorney General’s office, setting up an Election Protection Hotline, and pushing back on the Rensselaer County Board of Elections’ attempts to suppress the vote by not providing equitable access to polling places.
Steadfast in her commitment to fighting voter suppression and intimidation, in 2021 James took legal action against bad actors Jacob Wohl and Jack Burkman for a robocall scheme aimed at keeping Black voters from the 2020 polls. The NY AG asserted the duo:
“Violated state and federal laws by orchestrating robocalls to threaten and harass Black communities through disinformation, including claims that mail-in voters would have their personal information disseminated to law enforcement, debt collectors, and the government. The Wohl and Burkman robocall campaign, which reached approximately 5,500 New Yorkers, sought to undermine and interfere with the then-ongoing efforts by the state of New York to fairly and safely administer its elections during the COVID-19 crisis and protect its citizens from voter intimidation and harassment.”
The Federal Communications Commission levied a fine of over $5 million against Wohl and Burkman for their roles in the voter suppression tactics.
With just a week before the midterm election, Attorney General James is continuing the fight for voting rights.
Put another check in the win column for the prosecutor elected by the people — and standing up for the people.
Follow Ty Ross on Twitter @cooltxchick
News journalist for Occupy Democrats.