ALBANY, N.Y. (WTEN) — Gov. Cuomo announced a proposal that continues to expand access to voting and improves procedures as part of his State of the State agenda. The Governor wants to speed up vote counting, expand on absentee ballots, and add additional time for early voting. 

“Our election system, on which our democracy is built, has, and continues to be, under attack by those seeking to undermine the founding principles of our nation and we must not only protect it, but ensure it can be accessed by all,” Governor Cuomo said. “While we have already made some progress in modernizing New York’s election system, there is much left to do and this historic package of election reforms will be critical in strengthening how elections are run and ensuring all New Yorkers are able to exercise this fundamental right.”

Speed Up the Counting of Absentee Ballots

New York State’s election law does not facilitate the speedy counting of large numbers of absentee ballots. Currently, the law only requires that boards of elections meet to process and count ballots within two weeks of a general election and within eight days of a primary election. This means that counties do not finish counting absentee ballots until weeks after Election Day. In 2020, when large numbers of absentee ballots were cast, New York was among the slowest states in the country to post the results of its absentee ballots. To ensure that New York State counts absentee votes quickly and efficiently, Governor Cuomo will introduce legislation requiring county boards of elections to process absentee ballots as they are received and to begin counting and reporting those ballots on Election Day.

No-Excuse Absentee Voting for All New Yorkers

In 2019, Governor Cuomo celebrated the Legislature’s passage of a resolution beginning the process of amending the state constitution to make no-excuse absentee voting a reality in our state. In 2021, the Governor will call on the Legislature to act quickly to pass the resolution again so that the proposed amendment can go on the ballot to be ratified by the voters.

Allow More Time for Voters to Request Absentee Ballots

The state’s election law currently prohibits voters from requesting their absentee ballots more than 30 days prior to Election Day. Particularly in elections with large numbers of absentee voters, this timeline may make it difficult for county boards of elections to process ballot requests in a timely and efficient manner. As a result, voters have less time to receive their ballots, vote, and mail them back. Governor Cuomo will advance legislation allowing voters to request absentee ballots 45 days prior to the election, ensuring they can be mailed as soon as the ballot is finalized and approved by the Board. 

Expand Access to Early Voting

Among Governor Cuomo’s voting rights and election administration achievements is the 2019 enactment of establishing early voting in New York State. In the general election in 2020 – the first major election following the implementation of New York State’s early voting law – more than 2.5 million New Yorkers, representing nearly one-fifth of all registered voters in the state, chose to cast their ballots during the early voting period. Governor Cuomo will advance legislation that extends early voting hours from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m. on weekends, as well as on a minimum of three week days during the ten day early voting period.