Assembly Passes Legislation to Speed up the Canvassing of Absentee Ballots in New York State and Ensure Every Valid Ballot Counts

Speaker Carl Heastie, Election Law Committee Chair Latrice Walker and Assemblymember Robert C. Carroll today announced that the Assembly has passed legislation that will streamline the process for canvassing absentee, military, special and affidavit ballots, and speed up the time it takes to count those ballots (A.7931, Carroll).

“We need to make sure that New Yorker’s ballot counts and are counted in a timely manner,” Speaker Heastie said. “This legislation will help streamline the process of counting absentee ballots, make sure ballots that have minor mistakes are not rendered invalid, and ensure that we can better implement no excuse absentee voting.”

“This legislation builds on the reforms to our electoral system that the Assembly Majority has fought to implement,” Assemblymember Walker said. “We will continue working to ensure that every eligible voter is able to cast their ballot and have their voices heard.”

“With the increased use of absentee ballots that we saw over the last year due to the pandemic, and with the passage of legislation which will permit no excuse absentee ballots in the future, it is important that our boards of elections are able to efficiently canvass and count those ballots,” Assemblymember Carroll said. “This legislation will streamline that process, and help make sure every New York voter’s ballot is counted.”

This legislation would update the process for canvassing absentee, military, special and affidavit ballots in order to speed up the counting of ballots. Boards of elections would be required to review absentee, military and special ballots on a rolling basis as they are received – prior to, during and after the election – to obtain election results more quickly by allowing all valid ballots to be counted on election night.

The bill would also help ensure that every valid ballot is counted by defining what makes a ballot valid, defective but curable, or invalid. It would eliminate the current process that allows a challenge to valid ballots. After the election, candidates will still be allowed to challenge the board of election’s determination that the ballot is invalid and seek a court order to count more ballots.

The 2020 election saw a dramatic increase in the use of absentee ballots due to the COVID-19 pandemic. The Legislature recently passed, for the second time, a constitutional amendment which would allow the Legislature to implement “no excuse” absentee voting in the future. This amendment will be on the ballot in November and if the voters pass it, absentee voting may become as common as Election Day voting.