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NYS Sends Absentee Ballot Applications To Homes Amid Pandemic

New York State Capitol

New York Governor Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will send absentee ballot applications to all eligible state voters for the June 23rd primary to give them the option of voting by mail if they don’t feel comfortable going to the polls in person due to the pandemic.

New York has strict rules on when a person can vote by absentee ballot. But Cuomo recently issued an executive order allowing for people affected by COVID-19 or who are worried about getting the disease to vote by mail. He says after seeing the crowded ballot lines in Wisconsin elections recently, which resulted in at least 19 people getting the virus, he’s expanding on that order.

“Today, I’m asking the Board of Elections to send every New York voter a postage paid application for a ballot,” Cuomo said. “So you don’t have to come out and get in line.”

Chief of Staff Melissa DeRosa says New York’s constitution does not allow the state to send direct mail- in ballots, so voters are being sent the applications instead. She says it makes it easier for people stuck home without access to a printer or unwilling to call their local boards of elections and endure long wait times.

“You would have had to download the ballot, call to get a ballot, go to the BOE to get a ballot,” DeRosa said. “So people who don’t have access to the Internet, and don’t want to leave their homes for fear of COVID, are able to get an application directly sent to them”.

Groups on both the left and right, including the government reform group Common Case and the state’s Conservative Party, have expressed concerns about expanding mail-in voting. They say the Board of Elections are not equipped to handle it properly, and might make mistakes that could bring the elections results into question. Cuomo says in light of the pandemic, he needs to offer people the choice.

“Life is options,” he said. “There’s only two options. Either people go to the polls or people vote by absentee. There’s no other way to do it.”

New York’s presidential primary, which was moved from April 28 to June 23, has not been cancelled, even though Democratic candidate Bernie Sanders has dropped out and endorsed Joe Biden. There are a number of primaries for seats for Congress and for the state legislature.  

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of public radio stations in New York state. She has covered state government and politics for the network since 1990.
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