Gov. Cuomo signs election reform laws aimed at making voting easier, community reacts

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ALBANY, N.Y. (WROC) — Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a series election reforms laws Thursday aimed at making it easier for New Yorkers to vote and be counted in November.

The bills are as follows:

  • S.8015-D/A.10833 Authorizes Voters to Request an Absentee Ballot Due to Risk of Illness, Including COVID
  • S.8783A/A.10807 Authorizes Voters to Request Absentee Ballots Starting Today
  • S.8799A/A.10808-A Allows Ballots to Be Postmarked On the Day of the Election, November 3

“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,” the governor said in a press release. “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.” 

The three-part package includes new measures allowing absentee ballot applications to be submitted to the Board of Elections immediately, expanding the necessary protections to allow a voter to get an absentee ballot due to risk or fear of illness including COVID-19 and ensuring all absentee ballots postmarked on or before Election Day or received by the Board of Elections without a postmark on the day after the Election will be counted.

Ballots with a postmark demonstrating that they were mailed on or before Election Day will be counted if received by November 10.   

“Sometimes the post office doesn’t put a post mark on a ballot that’s returned, so as long as the Board of Elections receives it by Nov 4, or the day after election, that ballot will be considered valid and it will be cast on behalf of the voter,” said LaShana Boose, Acting Democratic Commissioner, Monroe County Board of Elections.

Boose says with over 500,000 registered voters in the county, the legislation will impact the upcoming election. “We definitely could see over 100,000 [absentee] ballots, easily.”

Meanwhile community members in Rochester are reacting to the legislation.

“We should have options,” said Polly Ellstrom. “I’m just worried about crowds – you see it in Rochester yourself,” said Debbie Brown. “I personally wouldn’t feel safe voting in person,” she said.

New York State Assemblyman Harry Bronson has been co-sponsoring the legislation. “These are changes to election law that are a direct reaction to the experience we had during the primary and the impact of COVID-19,” said Bronson. He said he’s heard a range of difficulties expressed by citizens from the last election, that have ranged from general fear and risk of COVID-19, to logistical problems with ballots.

“We also heard about ballots that didn’t get in on time … things of that nature…its trying to make a process so that there’s enough time to efficiently and effectively get those in on time,” he said.

As for in-person voting, one focus of discussion is on polling sites and protocols. Boose said they’re looking at flow of traffic, distancing inside, and managing one-way traffic for voters to enter and exit.

Boose says they recently sent out their first batch of absentee ballot applications in Monroe County. If you didn’t receive one, or have moved, you can call (585) 753-1550 to request a ballot application be sent to you.

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