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Cuomo announces virtual portal for residents to apply for absentee ballots

Robert Pelaez
Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced proposed changes to New York elections and ballots during his 2021 State of the State. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced the launch of an absentee ballot portal that allows residents to directly request an absentee ballot for the upcoming general election on Nov. 3.

Cuomo said the implementation of the ballot portal would allow any voter concerned about exposing themselves to potential COVID-19 carriers to receive an absentee ballot.

 “In line with the sweeping reforms we have implemented to make it easier for New Yorkers to exercise their right to vote, today we launch the online portal through which every registered voter concerned about COVID-19 can obtain an absentee ballot,” Cuomo said. “Voting is the cornerstone of democracy and we want each and every voter to feel safe and secure in the exercise of voting.”  

Cuomo also issued an executive order to support and increase New Yorkers’ right to vote.  The order required county boards of elections to take “concrete steps” to inform voters on modified election information such as dates, polling places, ballot registration, confused by the coronavirus pandemic.

“This election is going to be one of the most critical in modern history,” Cuomo said. “It will be controversial. You already hear the statements questioning the vote, and the accuracy of the vote, and mail-in ballots. We want to make sure that every vote is counted; every voice is heard and that it’s fair and right and accurate.”

County board of elections must send mail outlining all the deadlines for voters by Tuesday, Sept. 8, send staffing plans and needs to the state board of elections by Sept. 20, adopting a uniform clarified envelope for absentee ballots, and to count votes faster.  Local boards are also required to reconcile affidavit and absentee ballots by 48 hours after elections.

Cuomo signed three bills in late August to allow better voting access in the November election.

“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 in a statement. “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.”

The first of the three bills gives voters the right to request an absentee ballot due to risk of illness to themselves or others, including COVID-19.

The second bill authorizes voters to request absentee ballots immediately, adding almost seven weeks to the amount of time a voter has to vote by absentee ballot. This legislation eliminates a provision that prevented voters from requesting absentee ballots until 30 days before Election Day.

The last of the three bills ensure that all absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day on Nov. 3 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 legislation also amends election law to allow the Board of Elections to count all absentee ballots that have a time stamp showing they were delivered to the board the day after the election but lack a dated postmark.   

“Voting access is one of the core foundations of our democracy,” Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers) said in a statement. “With the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic, we must ensure that no New Yorkers feel pressured to put their health and well-being at risk to exercise their Constitutional right to vote. I thank the bill sponsors for advancing this legislation, and my Senate Democratic Majority colleagues for their ongoing commitment to empower New York voters and Governor Cuomo for signing these bills.”

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Robert Pelaez

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