Cuomo signs election reform bills to make absentee voting easier for New Yorkers

ALBANY — A majority of New Yorkers will be able to vote via absentee ballot

ALBANY — A majority of New Yorkers will be able to vote via absentee ballot in the November general election after Gov. Cuomo approved a trio of bills expanding and protecting mail-in voting.

The election reforms signed into law Thursday, as President Trump continues to claim without evidence that mail-in balloting is rife with fraud and abuse, will allow New Yorkers to immediately request an absentee ballot due to COVID-19 risks or fears of contracting the virus.

Another measure addresses some of the Postal Service problems that plagued the state’s primary by allowing ballots to be postmarked on the day of the election and ensures all absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day or received by the Board of Elections without a postmark on the day after Election Day will be counted.

“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. “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.”

Unlike the primary, when Cuomo instructed absentee ballot requests be sent to all eligible voters, New Yorkers will have to request a mail-in ballot online, over the phone, in person or by mail.

Once completed, voters can either mail the ballots or drop them off at early voting sites or any polling site on Election Day.

Legislators approved the bills last month following the state’s botched primary, which saw an unprecedented number of people choose to vote absentee. The uptick in mail-in votes led to myriad problems and more than 80,000 ballots were ultimately rejected by election officials in New York City.

Of the more than 403,000 ballots returned to election officials, only 319,000 were counted, according to certified results.

Tens of thousands of votes were invalidated due to postmark issues or voters failing to sign the envelope containing their ballot.

The measures are meant to alleviate some of the controversies that arose from the June election and ensure voters are comfortable voting amid the COVID-19 crisis and have confidence in the system, according to Senate Majority Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins (D-Yonkers).

“Voting access is one of the core foundations of our democracy,” she said. “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.”

Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie (D-Bronx) called out Trump for his baseless attacks on mail-in voting and recent changes made by the Postal Service that could lead to devastating delays and problems in November.

“The Assembly Majority knows that democracy is best served when it is easier, not harder for Americans to vote,” he said. “But the administration in Washington is once again proving that they do not value these critical democratic institutions, going as far as attacking the U.S. Postal Service to limit access to voting by mail. Here in New York, we will not stand for that.”

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