New York

EDITORIAL: Bills open up voting in New York

School vote counting in Saratoga Springs in June. By Erica Miller/Gazette
School vote counting in Saratoga Springs in June. By Erica Miller/Gazette

Categories: Editorial, Opinion

If you know who you’re going to vote for this year, you don’t have to wait to cast your ballot by mail.

If your reason for voting by mail-in ballot is because you’re afraid of getting coronavirus when you go to the polling places to vote in person, you now have a legitimate excuse for obtaining an absentee ballot.

And even if you wait until the last minute to vote by absentee, you can still get it in and counted, so long as you get it postmarked by Election Day.

Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a package of bills Thursday that should make our election in New York go smoother and take some of the pressure off the Postal Service and local boards of elections to manage this year’s election — which has been thrown into potential chaos by the spread of the virus.

One bill, which we advocated for in an editorial earlier this week, eliminates the requirement that prevented voters from requesting absentee ballots until 30 days before the election.

Given the potential increase in the number of ballots expected to be mailed due to the coronavirus, such a short window could have potentially overwhelmed elections officials and post offices with last-minute ballots, and possibly prevented voters from getting their ballots in in enough time to be counted.

The legislation signed by Cuomo eliminates the deadline, which means voters can begin requesting absentee ballots immediately.

So if you know who you’re going to vote for, and you know you’re going to vote by mail, go ahead and request a ballot now and mail it back ASAP.

Another important bill signed by Cuomo will add “risk of illness to themselves or others” (such as the coronavirus) to the small list of justifications one needs to request an absentee ballot.

This opens the door to virtually any registered voter in the state being able to obtain a mail-in ballot.

The third bill he signed would allow ballots to be postmarked the day of the election and for them to be counted if they arrive seven days after the election.

It also will allow boards of elections to accept ballots until the day after the election that were sent through the mail but somehow didn’t receive a postmark.

More needs to be done to ensure that the voting process goes smoothly, including installing new procedures at ballot places for those who vote in person, and making it easier for people to drop off ballots in secure drop-boxes.

But this package of bills goes a long way to making sure New Yorkers have a greater opportunity to vote and to have their votes counted.

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