Editorial: N.Y. trailing badly in election laws

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As most voters waited for the write-in ballots cast in states that would determine the fate of this year’s presidential race to be counted, many Americans nervously wondered what was taking so long.

The answer in Michigan, Wisconsin and Pennsylvania was easy.

Republican legislators had resisted the pleas of governors and state election officials to begin counting the coronavirus-fueled deluge of mailed-in ballots before Election Day as was being done in Florida and other states.

This was in keeping with President Donald Trump’s plan to build a lead in the Electoral College on Election Day in states he expected to carry and challenge ballots cast in states that he expected to lose.

This delay in counting, combined with extra caution by The Associated Press and broadcast networks in calling the race, resulted in Americans waiting until Saturday to learn that former Vice President Joe Biden had won the presidency.

Most of the write-ins votes were counted in three other swing states – Georgia, Arizona and North Carolina – by Sunday, but the races were not called due to the closeness of the vote totals.

The seventh state seen as a possible decider of the election, Nevada, drew an especially heavy dose of derision on social media for its slow pace of counting – no doubt inspired by the image created by the state’s fast-paced casinos.

An entire genre of videos spread on social media mocking Nevada’s slow count replete with photographs of sloths and a young boy in a baseball uniform caught seemingly forever between third base and home.

But then the race was called in favor of Biden on Saturday.

And what about New York?

Well, if getting results in a reasonable amount of time is important,  the country is fortunate New York is a heavily blue state that could be called Tuesday night for Biden based only on in-person voting.

Because in most places in New York the counting of mail-in ballots did not even begin until this past Friday. In Nassau County, the county Board of Elections waited until Monday with the final results not expected for two more weeks. And in Suffolk County, the counting was not expected to begin until Monday.

This did not stop the state from being called for Biden, but it did prevent voters from knowing the outcome of many races for Congress, state Senate and state Assembly.

Locally, Congressman Tom Suozzi (D-3rd District) trailed Republican challenger George Santos by 4,185 votes based on in-person voting, but he said he expected to win the race by 20,000 votes once the mail-in ballots were counted. Voters may have to wait another week or two to see if he is correct.

Suozzi’s analysis is consistent with races around the country where Democrats won more of the mailed-in votes – even in districts that voted Republican.

Which is a function of Democrats ignoring Trump’s false claims that mailed-in ballots were subject to cheating – except in red-state Florida where the president and his family vote.

Is this delay in knowing the final results of elections a bad thing? In most cases, no. The most important factor in an election is to get the right result.

But it becomes a problem when you have a candidate like Trump, who is willing to undermine a pillar of democracy with false claims of election fraud in the hopes of stealing the election in the Supreme Court. Which, sadly, is what has happened before.

Which answers the next question: Would it be better if mail-in votes in New York were counted sooner?

This would be true if New York did all its voting by mail as is done by eight states, both red and blue, and the District of Columbia.

Or if New York was like the nine states that automatically send all voters mail-in ballots.

Or if New York joined the 35 other states that always allow voters to request mail-in ballots with no excuses. New Yorkers were only allowed to use COVID-19 as a reason to get a mailed-in ballot after an executive order by Gov. Andrew Cuomo.

The state’s restrictive voting laws have a long history, thanks in large part to state Senate Republicans.

They, like Republicans across the country, have sought for many years to suppress the vote to win elections rather than find better candidates, more popular positions or both.

Until Democrats gained control of the state Senate in January, New York had no early voting, held federal and state primary elections on different days and had a loophole for LLCs that allowed large companies to contribute virtually unlimited amounts to candidates’ campaigns.

New York’s laws looked more like those of Southern states whose policies were under congressional supervision until the Supreme Court decided they no longer posed a threat to voting rights. The Southern states immediately proved them wrong.

But even with a Democratic governor and Democratic control of the Assembly and Senate, New York still makes it harder for people to vote than most states.

That should change immediately after this election.

For starters, how about in-person Election Day registration as is done in 13 states and the District Columbia? Or better yet, automatically enroll anyone who pays state taxes. We did overthrow the British in part for taxation without representation.

The state should also automatically mail ballots to everyone. No, fraud has not been found in states that already do this and there is no need for this to cost taxpayers more money.

Just take the money used by legislators for mailers that are supposed to keep their constituents informed but often do nothing but tout the re-election of the legislator.

New York should begin counting mailed-in votes as they are received – as is done in Florida and other states.

To make this easier, the state should do away with a law that allows people to vote in-person and by mail – yes, cast votes twice – and leave it up to the county boards of election to toss out the mailed-in ballot.

And to ensure efficiency in boards of election, take control of them from Democrats and Republicans and put them in the hands of professionals.

In Nassau County, the Democratic and Republican parties each receive millions of dollars to dole out in salaries to their members to oversee elections. Why?

The state government’s favoring of the two political parties over all others has led the boards of election to become a dumping ground for Republican and Democratic party faithful whose competence comes in no better than second in getting jobs with six-figure salaries.

This gives them a taxpayer-financed advantage over every other political party. Perhaps, a little more competition among political parties wouldn’t be a bad thing. And putting paid professionals in charge of elections would certainly be a good thing.

As was shown in the presidential race, elections have consequences. One of them should be that New York election laws encourage everyone to vote.

 

 

 

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