New York City elections officials should clarify the amount of postage voters need to return absentee ballots through the mail, the good government group Citizens Union on Monday said.
The concern over the specifics of absentee voting, perhaps an after thought in prior election years, is coming into sharp relief for voting advocates, elected officials, and voters themselves amid a pandemic that is expected to drive up the number of ballots cast by absentee.
Statewide, elections officials expect millions of absentee votes to be cast, and the results of many races are not expected to be known in the hours after the polls close.
“Voters throughout the five boroughs have already begun receiving their absentee ballots," said Betsy Gotbaum, the executive director of Citizens Union.
"With so many voters taking advantage of absentee voting for the first time, we need to clearly communicate to voters what they need to do to ensure their vote is counted. That includes letting voters know how much postage is necessary to mail their absentee ballot back to the Board of Elections."
Already, there have been problems for voters in New York City receiving absentee ballots, including voters in parts of Brooklyn receiving incorrect ballots meant either for another voter, or for someone casting a ballot as a military or overseas voter. A printing error from a Rochester-based company was found to be responsible for the error.
The United States Postal Service determines the cost of postage. But the New York City Board of Elections produces the ballots for elections. Citizens Union wants elections officials to work with the postal service to determine the proper cost for mailing in a ballot.
“We need to do everything in our power to ensure that all New Yorkers have the opportunity to vote and have their vote counted this fall," Gotbaum said. "That’s why we’re calling on the Board of Elections to use all the communications tools at their disposal to inform voters about the amount of postage necessary to return their absentee ballots."