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Governor signs laws making it easier to vote this November

Staff Reports Posted 23 August 2020 at 5:32 pm

Governor Andrew M. Cuomo last week signed into law election reforms that will make it easier for New Yorkers to vote and be counted in November.

The three-part package includes new measures allowing absentee ballot applications to be submitted to the Board of Elections immediately, expanding the necessary protections to allow a voter to get an absentee ballot due to risk or fear of illness including Covid-19 and ensuring all absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day or received by the Board of Elections without a postmark on the day after the Election will be counted.

Ballots with a postmark demonstrating that they were mailed on or before Election Day will be counted if received by Nov. 10.

“The federal administration has ordered an unprecedented attack on the U.S. Postal Service and with Covid-19 threatening our ability to have safe, in-person voting, these measures are critical to ensuring a successful and fair election at one of the most important moments in our nation’s history,” Cuomo said. “These actions will further break down barriers to democracy and will make it easier for all New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote this November.”

Relating to Absentee Ballot Requests Due to Risk of Illness (S.8015-D/A.10833)

This legislation gives voters the right to request an absentee ballot due to risk of illness to themselves or others.

Relating to Absentee Ballot Requests (S.8783A/A.10807)

This legislation authorizes voters to request absentee ballots immediately, 30 days before Election Day, adding almost 7 weeks to the amount of time a voter has to vote by absentee ballot. This legislation eliminates an outdated statutory provision that prevents voters from requesting absentee ballots until 30 days before Election Day. The legislation gives voters reassurance that they will receive and can cast their vote in a timely manner.

Relating to Ballots Postmarked on Day of Election (S.8799A/A.10808-A)

This legislation allows ballots to be postmarked on the day of the election, November 3. The legislation also amends election law to allow the Board of Elections to count all absentee ballots that have a time stamp showing it was delivered to the Board of Elections the day after the election but does not have a dated postmark. The Board of Elections shall deem those ballots mailed in a timely fashion.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, praised the passage of the new election bills, and urged the state to provide funding to the Board of Elections to implement the measures.

“Thanks to the Legislature and Governor Cuomo, this coming November New Yorkers will have three safe and secure ways to vote: early, absentee, or on Election Day.” Lerner said. “The Boards of Elections need more funding but these critical reforms will allow them to plan and execute the most consequential election this century. New York City voters should get ahead of the curve and apply online now for an absentee ballot, or make a plan to vote early starting October 24 – November 1. The rest of the state should be able to apply for an absentee ballot asap. Democracy does not pause.”

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