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NYS Legislature to hold hearing on impact of COVID-19 on 2020 primary elections

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Tue, Aug 11th 2020 10:00 am

Senate Elections Committee Chair Zellnor Myrie, Senate Local Government Committee Chair James Gaughran, Assembly Election Law Committee Chair Charles Lavine and Assembly Local Governments Committee Chair Fred Thiele Jr. will take testimony to review voter turnout and systemic issues related to voting in the 2020 primary elections to evaluate how well New York handled voting during a pandemic and explore potential solutions to issues that arose during the election. They will seek to identify what steps can be taken to help voters exercise their rights without disenfranchisement, but also without risking further spread of COVID-19 ahead of the November general election.

The event begins at 10 a.m. this morning at https://www.nysenate.gov/events
https://www.nyassembly.gov/av/live/. In the interest of public health and safety, the hearings will be conducted virtually using web-based video conferencing. 

On March 7, a state of emergency was declared in New York due to COVID-19, impacting the local governments tasked with administering the federal presidential primary, which originally had been slated for April 28, and numerous special elections. Through executive order, all federal and state primaries were eventually rescheduled for June 23. Another executive order clarified that any voter could request an absentee ballot due to risk of temporary illness caused by COVID-19, and provided that every New Yorker eligible to vote in the election would receive a postage-paid absentee ballot application. 

More than 1.7 million absentee ballots were requested for the 2020 June primary in New York state and, as of July 1, nearly 1 million of those ballots had been returned, compared to the 2016 presidential primary when only 115,000 absentee ballots were returned. Since the primary, there have been multiple lawsuits filed and complaints of voters never receiving an absentee ballot despite properly applying for one; and having absentee ballots challenged for technical reasons, including having ballots disregarded because they arrived at the local county board of elections without a postmark through no fault of the voter. 

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