To the editor:
(re: “Well, this is embarrassing,” Dec. 2)
Even while encouraging New Yorkers to vote to make “your voices heard,” you fail to properly respect New York voters who, by a 55 percent majority, elected not to amend Article II of the state constitution, which currently limits the absentee ballot option to those who would not be available to vote in-person due to illness or disability, or due to geographical absence on the designated voting date.
Although you do not expressly advocate amending the constitution in spite of the referendum results, you express your hope that Gov. Kathy Hochul sign into law a bill proposed by Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz that would extend current no-excuse absentee balloting that started as a coronavirus pandemic-related emergency measure to 2024.
You don’t mention it, but the proposed legislation is based on the premise that the pandemic is still ongoing and no-excuse absentee balloting is necessary to prevent voters from spreading or contracting the virus that causes COVID-19 at voting sites.
But is it really? Particularly considering that the vast majority of New York voters are vaccinated and mask-wearing can be easily enforced at voting sites, in-person voting is about as low-risk an activity — for COVID-19 — that one can engage in.
Thus, COVID-19 appears to be a contrived excuse to continue no-excuse absentee ballots notwithstanding the referendum results.
Sure, some people who might not normally qualify for an absentee ballot — like the elderly — might be more vulnerable to the virus, so that I would suggest that voters of a certain age — say 75 — automatically be entitled to absentee ballots. And there ought to be a system whereby voters who were planning to vote in-person but are subject to COVID-19-related quarantine on the date of the election have alternate means to cast their ballots.
But for the vast majority of voters, there is no more hindrance to in-person voting than there was pre-pandemic.
You appear to dismiss New Yorkers who voted against no-excuse absentee ballots as a bunch of upstate rubes, and state categorically “there’s not a single good reason” to oppose the continuation of no-excuse absentee balloting. In fact, legalities aside, I can think of a few such reasons.
For one, mail voting — due to its private nature, and the fact that it can theoretically be performed en masse (a la illegal ballot harvesting) — is inherently more susceptible to fraud than is in-person voting, and should therefore be minimized to the extent practical.
That claims by Donald Trump and his supporters that the 2020 presidential election may be baseless and fantastical does not mean there are not elements of validity to concerns about potential mail fraud — and the mantra invoked by Democratic politicians and their media allies that “voter fraud does not exist” serves more to gaslight than to illuminate.
In addition, particularly in these times of political polarization and social isolation, the air of communal spirit typically permeating a polling place — where people of disparate backgrounds bound together by their district of residence get together for one common purpose, to exercise their right to vote — can be refreshing. It’s just not the same if most, if not eventually all, voters exercise that right by slipping envelopes into mailboxes.
And finally, while the task of voting should not be too onerous, making it easy to vote should not be the end-all and be-all of the electoral process. The number of people who actually vote in elections is not as important as having a system that ensures that all eligible voters be given a fair opportunity to vote. That eligibility be based on reasonable and non-arbitrary standards, and that election integrity — and the perception thereof — is maintained.
In fact, there is something to be said for requiring that those who wish to vote exert a modicum of effort — like, say, going to a polling place or requesting and casting an absentee ballot. You decry the lack of voter turnout for the referendum in Brooklyn, the Bronx, Queens and Manhattan, which apparently contributed to the vote against the absentee ballot proposal, but electoral processes should not be geared toward achieving a particular outcome.
Voters against the absentee ballot proposal, in a sense, deserved to win simply because they — in greater numbers than the other side — took the time to exercise their right to vote.