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Some NY Republicans pushing back on new absentee ballot measures

An Official Election Mail black and white package
File Photo

In the final hours of 2021, Gov. Kathy Hochul signed into law two bills that would expand the use and accessibility of absentee ballots going forward. The first allows voters to submit online requests for absentee ballots and the second allows boards of elections to open absentee ballots prior to election day.

While the goal of these laws is to make things easier for both voters and elections officials, two Republican members of the state Board of Elections say this is teeing the state up for increased voter fraud.

In regards to the first bill, Board of Elections co-chairman Peter Kosinski said an online portal means anyone can request an absentee ballot for any voter as long as they have their information.

“That just creates the potential of having ballots sent out there without the voters even knowing about it,” said Kosinski. “And you can imagine the kind of potential fraud or manipulation that creates.”

The issue he takes with the second law is that because Boards of Elections will be able to open ballots as they come in, it makes it hard for anyone to observe the absentee counting process.

“The issue there is that this will this will undercut the ability of people to observe what's going on,” he said. “It's just not practical that people can come in and sit and watch ballots being opened over that long period of time.”

Now, it should be noted that while the absentee ballots can be opened, they can’t be run through a ballot machine until after election day.

Onondaga County Democratic Elections Commissioner, Dustin Czarny, said that calls of voter fraud are common when changes like this are made.

"Every time there's a change in election, we see the cries of voter fraud and peril of our election system,” said Czarny.

But he says voter fraud really isn’t that common, even during the pandemic when the state saw peak absentee voting.

"We, we have fraud protections in place. Mail balloting has been happening on a ubiquitous basis over the last couple of years without any real fraud happening,” he said.

In fact, the last time there was a recorded case of fraudulent use of absentee ballots was in 2016.

In addition to these measures signed by Hochul, the state senate passed a package of bills that would continue to allow voters to cite COVID-19 as a reason to skip going to the polls, push back the absentee registration deadline, and expand early voting access.