A three-part package of bills that are meant to expand access to absentee ballots and ensure they are received by Election Day was signed onto law on Thursday by Gov. Andrew Cuomo. 

What You Need To Know

  • Gov. Cuomo has signed a package of bills allowing all voters to request an absentee ballot if they are concerned about COVID

  • The legislation means all ballots postmarked on or before Election Day and received within seven days after Election Day must be counted

  • All ballots without a postmark received on Nov. 4 (the day after Election Day) will also be counted

The measures come amid heightened concerns around absentee and mail-in voting ahead of the November general election.  

Cuomo in a statement pointed to the ongoing funding controversies surrounding the U.S. Postal Service that has led to Democrats raising concerns over whether ballots would arrive on time by Election Day. 

"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." 

Among the bills approved by Cuomo include expanding the criteria for absentee balloting to include virutally any registered voter so that those who are concerned with contracting COVID-19 can vote by absentee.

Another measure will add nearly seven weeks to the amount of time a voter has to cast a ballot through the absentee process. And Cuomo also approved an amendment to the state's election law that allows ballots to be postmarked on the day of the election, Nov. 3.

That provision also requires boards of elections to count all absentee ballots that have a time stamp showing they were delivered to the on the day after the election, but lack a dated postmark. 

Local elections officials are preparing for an influx of absentee ballots as millions more voters are expected to cast votes that way this year amid the coronavirus pandemic. 

Complicating the issue has been the funding battle over the postal service, which Democrats worry could choke the ability of ballots arriving on time. 

"The Assembly Majority knows that democracy is best served when it is easier, not harder for Americans to vote," said Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie.

"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. Earlier this year, we passed legislation to expand voters access to mail in voting, and we will continue to fight to make it easier and safer for New Yorkers to exercise their constitutional right to vote, and protect the integrity of our elections."

President Donald Trump has cast doubt on the integrity of mail-in voting, though fraud is exceedingly rare. 

The governor earlier this year approved an expanded absentee ballot plan for primary voters in June, sending every voter a ballot application. 

With so many absentee ballots that were sent in, it took weeks for some federal and state primaries to be fully counted.