Millions of voters in New York sent in their absentee ballots days or weeks in advance, voted in person up to 10 days before Election Day or showed up at the polls on Election Day to cast their ballots.
Yet more than a week after the election officially ended, many voters still have no idea if the member of Congress or state legislator or other candidate for public office they voted for won the election, nor do many know whether any ballot proposition they voted on passed or failed.
That’s because in New York, where common sense goes to die, state law prohibits local boards of election from starting to count absentee ballots for up to a week after Election Day — unnecessarily depriving voters and candidates of knowing the outcome of races in a timely manner, possibly weeks or months.
This year, more than 1.5 million New Yorkers voted by absentee ballot.
It’s ridiculous for the state to stand on some ancient regulation while the public waits unnecessarily long for the results.
In New York City, for example, absentee ballots will determine the winner of a close state Assembly race in Queens, where about 1,800 votes separate the candidates with more than 15,300 ballots left to count. In a Long Island congressional race, the incumbent is down 4,000 votes with 90,000 absentees left to be counted.
Locally, the semi-annual effort to change the form of government in Saratoga Springs was down by about 1,100 votes on Election Day, but there are 6,000 absentees left to count.
While these and many more elections hang in the balance, many election boards only began counting absentees on Tuesday. There’s no reason to wait this long.
Legislation proposed by state Sen. Michael Gianaris would get the vote counts going much earlier. His bill (S.9089) would allow boards of election to start examining incoming absentee ballot envelopes and ballots for validity on a daily basis up to 40 days before an election.
That would ensure most legitimate ballots are already verified when the time comes to count them. The bill then allows boards to start counting those ballots three hours before the polls close on Election Day, rather than a week or so later.
Of course, many absentee ballots still trickle in several days after Election Day.
They’ll also get counted faster because with many ballots already verified and counted, the whole process for determining the outcome of elections moves up.
This election amplified the issues with delayed election outcomes.
This bill should get an Assembly sponsor and be passed in time for the next election.