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Proposal to install ballot drop-off boxes in NYS may be too late for November election

Aug 31, 2020

Credit freeimages.com/Kristen Price

With concerns about whether recent changes at the U.S. Postal Service will keep mailed absentee ballots from getting counted in time, State Sen. Brad Hoylman is suggesting an alternative.

The New York City Democrat wants to authorize local boards of elections to set up absentee drop-off boxes so voters can circumvent the post office.

The boxes are used in other states that have all-mail in voting, but they don't exist right now in New York. That would require legislation, due to chain of custody and security issues.

"Whether the box is monitored...those kinds of things need to be determined by statute," said John Conklin, director of public information for the New York State Board of Elections.

But, Conklin said it would be virtually impossible to get the boxes installed for the upcoming election, even if the measure did become law.

"The vendors have told us they need, like, 60 to 90 days of lead time on an order to get drop boxes made up and installed," he explained."I think we're well past the 90-day point, so I think it's very unlikely we would have any in place this year."

Voters who don't want to mail their absentee ballots do have several other options.

Ballots can be dropped off at any polling site during the early voting period from October 24 through November 1, or on election day, November 3. Ballots can also be taken to a local board of elections office during normal business hours.

Conklin said if the general election follows the trend set during June's primary, when 50 to 60 percent of the electorate voted by absentee ballot, up 4 to 5 million absentee ballots could be cast in New York state in November.

Poll Workers Needed

Tuesday, September 1 is National Poll Worker Recruitment Day.

People are needed to work on Election Day and during the early voting period, as many existing poll workers are in an age group that makes them more vulnerable to COVID-19.

In New York, about 55 percent of all poll workers are 60 or older, according to Conklin, and a recent Facebook recruiting campaign did attract some younger applicants.

"But the fact that some of them are going back to college, I think, may undermine that, because once they're on their college campus, they can't leave; they're sort of in a bubble, so that may counteract a little bit what we're doing," he said. "But if you're not college-age, but you're still a younger person, we're more than happy for you to become a poll worker for us."

Poll workers must be 18 or older, in most cases, and must be registered to vote, unless they will be working as a translator.

Applications and more information can be found at the websites for both the New York State Board of Elections the Monroe County Board of Elections.