The Postal Service in New York will likely have its hands full of absentee ballots this fall because of a bill that Gov. Andrew Cuomo is preparing to sign.

In a radio interview Wednesday afternoon, Cuomo confirmed what NY1 reported earlier in the day, which is that he is ready to sign off on a move that will allow all New Yorkers to ask for an absentee ballot because of COVID-19.

What You Need To Know

  • Cuomo plans to sign legislation allowing all New Yorkers to vote by mail if they are concerned about voting in person because of COVID-19

  • The bill mimics what was down for the June primary, although it’s a better guarantee this time since it’s done by statute

  • NY has passed constitutional amendment establishing voting by mail permanently, but that won’t take effect until 2022

In the past, voters would have to come up with an explanation like they were out of town in order to vote by mail.

“Currently, you can vote by absentee for a few reasons, one of which is illness. What this bill will do is it will redefine illness to essentially include people who are concerned contracting an illness and/or spreading it,” Bronx Democratic Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz explained. “So, it’s really aimed at COVID-19.”

The legislation was passed by both houses of the New York State Legislature last month. It more or less mimics what was established for the June 23 primary, when most New Yorkers opted to vote by absentee.

But that was done through an executive order by Cuomo. This time around, it’s by law, which is a better guarantee.

“Now we will have certainty that people will be able to vote by absentee ballot no matter what for November, and into next year,” Dinowitz said.

Unlike the June primary, when voters were mailed a request form for an absentee ballot, they will have to contact the Board of Elections in order to get a ballot.

Meanwhile, lawmakers have already started the process of changing the state constitution to make voting by mail permanent, but it needs to pass in two consecutive legislative sessions. And this bill will expire in early 2022, just before that amendment can take effect.

“So we passed a constitutional amendment, but what we have to do is we actually have to bring it back next session and pass it again,” said Democratic State Sen. Brian Benjamin of Manhattan. “So to bridge that period, this bill will allow us to expand the definition of illness.”

At a recent legislative hearing, officials from the Board of Elections were asked whether it would be difficult to count al those votes coming in through the mail. They agreed it would be, since they are expected four times as many absentee ballots compared to the June 23 primary.


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