The fear of slow mail delivery based on last year’s experience with absentee ballots means if you want to apply for an absentee ballot and have it mailed to you in time to vote in next month’s general election, you’re quickly running out time.
Local boards of election must receive an application or letter of application by Monday if you want an absentee ballot mailed to you. You can apply by mail, online portal, email or fax.
If you don’t apply for an absentee ballot before Monday, the board of elections won’t mail you a ballot. But you still will be able to apply for an absentee ballot; you’ll just have to actually visit your county board of elections office and pick up an application.
In the past, voters had up to seven days before an election to apply for an absentee ballot. That deadline was moved back to 15 days this year to accommodate the newfound popularity of absentee voting.
The previous application deadline made it almost impossible for boards to mail out absentee ballots to voters and also give voters enough time to fill them out and mail them back in before the deadline for receiving them. (This year, absentee ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 2 and received at the board of elections by Nov. 9.)
In many places the sheer volume of absentee ballots overwhelmed the Postal Service, increasing the possibility that some people’s ballots might not make it back in time to count.
Not only did more people want to vote by absentee ballot to avoid standing in line with other people and potentially being exposed to the virus, but the state also loosened some of its strict eligibility criteria for absentee voting so more people could vote.
Under an executive order signed by then-Gov. Andrew Cuomo, the state allowed people to use their fear of contracting covid as a valid excuse for seeking an absentee ballot, essentially opening up absentee voting to every registered voter.
Fear of contracting covid is still a valid reason. Voters should select “temporary illness” as the reason given on the application.
Voters also can apply for an absentee ballot if they’re going to be absent from their county on Election Day, can’t vote in person due to a permanent illness or disability, if the voter is a primary caregiver to someone who is ill or physically disabled, if the voter is a resident of patient of a Veterans Health Administration hospital or if the voter is detained in jail waiting grand jury action or serving time for a non-felony offense.
For more information on absentee voting, how to submit an application and deadlines, visit the state Board of Elections website at https://absenteeballot.elections.ny.gov/.
There are many local races on the Nov. 2 ballot this year, as well as a number of state ballot propositions.
If you want to vote by absentee and want your ballot mailed to you, time is running out.