EDITORIAL: Use new portal to obtain absentee ballot

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Categories: Editorial, Opinion, The Daily Gazette

If you’re a little unsure how to request an absentee ballot or a little confused about what it entails, the state on Tuesday made matters a lot clearer for you.

The state Board of Elections has posted an online portal for requesting absentee ballots — a simple, effective mechanism that anyone with even basic knowledge of computers can operate.

The portal can be found at https://absenteeballot.elections.ny.gov/.

The first page of the form asks registered voters for their county, last name, first name, date of birth and ZIP code.

If you get even one bit of the information wrong, the site will respond that it can’t find your registration and urge you to contact your local Board of Election.

Once you’ve filled in these blanks correctly, a second page will pop up.

The first question on the page asks you how you’d like to receive your absentee ballot. The second question asks you the reason for requesting an absentee ballot.

New to this year’s list of reasons relates to covid.

If you have a fear of contracting or spreading the disease, you can click the box for Temporary Illness.

The other standard reasons for seeking an absentee ballot still apply, including being out of town on Election Day, caring for a sick or disabled individual, permanent disability or illness, residing in a veterans hospital, and being temporarily detained in jail for non-felony offenses.

Voters also are required to provide the language they want to the ballot in and offered the option of providing a phone number and email address if you want to be contacted.

Finally, voters must check a box certifying that you are indeed a registered voter, that the information you provided is correct, and that you agree to be subject to penalties as if you’d applied in person.

It’s that simple.

The Board of Elections website for absentee voting (https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingAbsentee.html) also offers other options for requesting absentee ballots, including email, fax and letter. 

It even offers suggestions for what you should include in your letter and provides deadlines, suggestions for how long you should wait to make a request, and your options for voting in person if you change your mind on voting by absentee.

If you’re thinking of voting by absentee, you’d best get in your application in sooner than later so you have time to return it in time to be counted.

Don’t wait for the October crush, which this year is expected to be significantly worse than in the past due to increased volume from absentee ballots and the additional burden placed on the Postal Service by more people voting by mail.

This new portal will help streamline and speed up your request.

Take advantage of it.

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