At the onset of the COVID-19 pandemic, New York state officials made it easier for people who were afraid of becoming sick to apply for and receive an absentee ballot.

As pandemic-era measures have lapsed, good-government advocates like Blair Horner of the New York Public Interest Research Group are calling to make the change a permanent one.

"Lawmakers would have to act on legislation to extend that this year," Horner said. "They haven’t done it yet. And the primary election is merely six weeks away."

Watchdog advocates like Common Cause’s Susan Lerner say the measure would clarify the reasons why a voter would qualify for an absentee ballot.

"This isn’t about some special favor," Lerner said. "This is a reasonable definition in our unfortunately highly contagious world."

And the reasons for voters not wanting to cast a ballot in person could go beyond COVID-19.

"That would be relevant, for instance, if you’re a cancer patient under chemotherapy," Lerner said. "It would be relevant if you’re immune compromised. It would be relevant if you’re an older person at risk for COVID."

Primary day for local elections in New York is June 27.

The absentee ballot measure is part of a package of bills Democratic lawmakers have called for in the final weeks of the legislative session in order to address ballot access. 

Some of the measures include requiring "plain language" on statewide ballot measures in order to cut down on voter confusion, allowing for same-day voter registration during early voting and requiring the use of paper ballots. 

But Republicans like state Sen. Mark Walczyk are opposed. He believes there should be more effort to turn people out on Election Day itself.

"We should be doing things to restore faith in the electoral process and get people out on Election Day," Walczyk said. 

New York, as well as states in elections across the country, have seen an increase in ballots cast by absentee during the pandemic. In 2021, voters turned down a constitutional amendment that would have allowed for no-excuse absentee balloting.

"There’s concern overall about how much paper ballots we’re going to be sending out in the mail," Walczyk said. "It seems like the push overall with one-party control overall is to move more things toward absentee."