A federal judge in New York City has ruled that the state of New York must count thousands of mail-in ballots from the June 23 primary that were originally deemed invalid.
Judge Analisa Torres of the Southern District of New York said Monday that state election officials must count ballots that were late and/or did not have a postmark.
According to the New York Post, part of the problem was that the ballots mailed to voters with prepaid stamps, thousands of them did not have postmarks when they were mailed back to election officials after voters filled them out.
The missing postmark led officials to deem the ballots invalid. Other ballots that had postmarks on them arrived late and were not counted.
Torres ruled that all of those rejected ballots must be counted.
"When voters have been provided with absentee ballots and assured that their votes on those ballots will be counted, the state cannot ignore a later discovered, systemic problem that arbitrarily renders those ballots invalid," Torres wrote in her ruling to a lawsuit brought by a group of plaintiffs that included congressional candidate Suraj Patel, who lost his primary, and Brooklyn Assembly candidate Emily Gallagher, who won her primary. Both candidates are Democrats.
"For those who voted by absentee ballot in the Gallagher and Patel races — and in particular, for those voters living in Brooklyn … accepting the state's offer to vote by absentee ballot and following the state's instructions to vote timely, nonetheless resulted in their ballots not being postmarked, and, consequently, invalidated.
"Under these circumstances, the policy embodied by the postmark rule, deliberately adopted and intentionally applied to those ballots, is sufficient to establish a violation of the Due Process Clause and the First Amendment."
The election included more mail-in ballots than usual because of the coronavirus pandemic. Torres pointed out that the issue of ballots without a postmark was most prevalent in Brooklyn.
"This is strong evidence that USPS locations in Brooklyn handled absentee ballots differently from the postal service locations in the other boroughs," she wrote. "Whether they were not delivered to the Morgan Facility, or mishandled once they got there, a significant number of Brooklyn ballots that should have been postmarked were not."
Mail-in ballots have made headlines in recent months as states grapple with how to handle voting in the November election. Several states have already passed measures that will allow for expanded mail-in voting, which has President Donald Trump and other Republicans worried about voter fraud.
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