July 11, 2019 By Laura Hanrahan
Statements by Governor Andrew Cuomo leave little room for hope of a last-minute signing of a voter reform law that could impact the outcome of the contentious Queens District Attorney Democratic primary race.
The bill, which would loosen the requirements for validating an affidavit ballot, was passed by State legislators in Albany last month but has not yet been sent over for approval to Cuomo, who endorsed Melinda Katz in the DA race.
The validity of affidavit ballots has been a focal point of the election, which is currently undergoing a manual recount. With only 16 votes separating candidates Tiffany Cabán and Katz, and more than 2,300 affidavit ballots having been ruled invalid by the Board of Elections, the Cabán team has been making a heavy push in recent days to get the Governor to sign the bill.
If the bill becomes law, affidavit ballots would no longer be nullified over technicalities such as not including a past address on the envelope, and would be counted as long as the voter “substantially complied” with the form.
This week, however, Cuomo indicated that he is in no rush to receive or sign the bill. He said that it would be “absurd” to apply the law retroactively to the June 25 DA primary, according to reports. He went on to state that he would review the bill, along with several other voter reform bills, some time before November.
Cabán, Katz and the BOE are currently entangled in a court case concerning the validity of 114 affidavit ballots that were previously ruled invalid for various information errors. Roughly 70 of these ballots were voided after the voter forgot to write “Democrat” on a line on the form that asked for party affiliation. The ballots will be reviewed by a judge who will determine their validity.
A ruling in the court case will not be made until the manual recount has ended, which will likely be some time after July 18. Cabán supporters were hopeful that if the law were passed before the recount ended, it could be taken into consideration.
Assembly Member Ron Kim, who represents parts of northeast Queens, spoke out against the legislative inaction on Twitter, stating that if the bill is not sent to Cuomo and signed, “we will all be complicit in suppressing voters.”
The Katz campaign, which made an unexpected comeback during the affidavit and absentee ballot count after being down by 1,199 votes on election night, does not support the push to get Cuomo to sign the bill, calling it a “latest Hail Mary attempt” on the part of the Cabán team.