“Voting is neither free nor fair if the State requires voters to pay for postage,” claims Linda Rosenthal, a Manhattan Democrat. “During a pandemic, when millions of New Yorkers will vote by mail to protect their health and safety, it is vital that we remove every barrier to the vote. This amounts to a poll tax: the cost of a single stamp could represent a difficult decision that no one who is barely scraping by should be forced to make.”
Other lawmakers have joined Rosenthal. And civil rights advocates are calling the need to put a 55 cent stamp on an envelope in order to return a ballot “voter suppression.”
Where was Rosenthal when we had to drive our own cars, take cabs, or take buses to get to the polls? It’s rather strange that Rosenthal isn’t requesting that voters who choose to vote in person be reimbursed for the gas they use to drive to the polls. 55 cents only covers one mile, and most people drive more than a mile to get to the polls. People who don’t own a car but who want to vote in person will most likely take a cab or a bus and will spend more than 55 cents to get their polling location.
It is hard to believe that spending 55 cents constitutes a hardship for even the poorest New Yorker. And no matter how you spin it, a postage stamp is not a poll tax. If the legislature should pass a bill requiring the state to provide return postage for absentee voters and people voting by mail, they need to also find a way to reimburse the cost of voting in person for those who choose to do so.