An appeals court has upheld the Early Mail Voter Act,...

An appeals court has upheld the Early Mail Voter Act, signed by Gov. Kathy Hochul last year. Credit: AP / Hans Pennink

ALBANY — A midlevel court on Thursday unanimously upheld New York’s law allowing early voting by mail, rejecting a challenge by the state Republican Party and a number of elected Republican officials.

The Appellate Division of State Supreme Court, in a 5-0 decision, said the Early Mail Voter Act permitting all qualified voters to vote early by mail rather than in person, is constitutional.

The judges discarded Republicans’ argument that the New York Constitution requires voting in person unless a person is sick or out of town on Election Day.

They also said the fact that voters in 2021 defeated a constitutional amendment to authorize “no excuse absentee voting” did not prevent the State Legislature from later enacting a statute to allow early voting by mail.

“We conclude that universal mail-in voting does not violate Article II of the NY Constitution and was properly implemented through legislative enactment,” Justice Michael Lynch wrote for the court.

Lynch added: “The NY constitution contains no requirement — express or implied — mandating that voting occur in-person on Election Day. At the same time, Article II, Section 7 grants the Legislature broad, plenary power to prescribe the manner in which voting is to occur … Our decision upholding the Act comports with the NY Constitution's embrace of broad voting rights for the state electorate.”

The Early Mail Voter Act was signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul in September. The Democrat-controlled Legislature said it would make voting easier and improve New York’s traditionally low turnout.

The bill altered the law to allow mail-in voting without an excuse during the early voting period before Election Days to any registered voter who requests one.

A lawsuit to block early voting was filed by Republican members of Congress, the Republican State Committee, the state Conservative Party, the National Republican Congressional Committee and others.

Republicans said an “implied prohibition on universal mail-in voting is contained within the absentee ballot provisions” of the New York Constitution. They also argued the early mail statute was an “end run” around voters’ rejection of the proposed constitutional amendment in 2021.

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