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Proposal for historic New York state election reform part of 2021 State of the State


Sat, Jan 9th 2021 11:25 am

Overhauls county election administration and speeds up ballot counting, advances absentee voting for all New Yorkers, adds additional hours of early voting

Gov. Andrew Cuomo on Friday announced a transformational proposal that “continues to expand access to voting and improves procedures,” as part of the governor's 2021 State of the State agenda by speeding up vote counting, and adding additional time for early voting. These efforts build on Cuomo's previous  election reforms.

"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," 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."

Expand Access to Early Voting: Among Cuomo's most important voting rights and election administration achievements is the 2019 enactment of legislation establishing early voting in New York state. In the general election in 2020 – the first major election following the implementation of New York’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. Cuomo will advance legislation that extends early voting hours from 6-9 p.m. weekends, as well as on a minimum of three weekdays during the 10-day early voting period.

No-Excuse Absentee Voting for All New Yorkers: In 2019, 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 the 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. This, in turn, provides voters with less time to receive their ballots, vote, and mail them back. 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.

Speed Up the Counting of Absentee Ballots: New York's election law does not facilitate the speedy counting of large numbers of absentee ballots – 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. In practice, this means that counties do not finish counting absentee ballots until weeks after Election Day, and 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 counts absentee votes quickly and efficiently after each election, 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.

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