Gov. Andrew Cuomo announced that the state will send absentee ballot applications to all eligible state voters for the June 23 primary to give them the option of voting by mail if they don’t feel comfortable going to the polls in person.
New York has strict rules on when a person can vote by absentee ballot. But Cuomo recently issued an executive order allowing people affected by COVID-19, or who are worried about getting the disease, to vote by mail.
He said 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 on line.”
Melissa DeRosa, Cuomo's chief of staff, said New York’s constitution does not allow the state to send direct mail-in ballots, so voters are being sent the applications instead. She said it makes it easier for people who are stuck home without access to a printer or are 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 the ballot,” DeRosa said. “So all we're doing is making this more convenient so that people who don’t have access to internet, don’t want to leave their homes because of their 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 Cause and the state’s Conservative Party, have expressed concerns about expanding mail-in voting. They say the Board of Elections is not equipped to handle it properly and might make mistakes that could bring results into question.
Cuomo said in light of the pandemic, he needs to offer people the choice.
“Life is options,” he said. “You have an election. 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 canceled, 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.