Albany, NY Voters in New York State will be able to vote absentee until at least the end of 2021, thanks to newly signed legislation from Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz. The legislation was signed into law by Governor Andrew Cuomo on August 20, 2020 and authorizes registered voters to apply for an absentee ballot because there is a risk of contracting or spreading a disease that may cause illness to the voter or to other members of the public. This expands prior statutory language that restricted eligibility for absentee ballots to just those with temporary or permanent illness or disability in addition to being absent from their residence for an election.
A permanent expansion of absentee ballot eligibility, also known as no-excuse absentee voting or vote-by-mail, will require amending the New York State Constitution. In order to amend the state constitution, a proposed amendment must pass in two consecutive legislatures and then be ratified by statewide popular vote. The New York State Legislature for the 2019-20 term has already passed a proposed amendment and will need to pass once more within the 2021-22 term. Once the proposed amendment passes for a second time, it must be ratified by statewide popular vote. The soonest this constitutional amendment could take effect is January 1, 2022 which coincides with the expiration of Assemblyman Dinowitzs new law.
In addition to expanded absentee ballot eligibility, Assemblyman Dinowitz has been pushing for several other reforms to ensure that all voters are able to have their ballots counted for the November 3 general election as well as all future elections in New York. This includes an ongoing effort to require absentee ballots that are missing a postmark to be counted if received by the Board of Elections within three days of the election date (A10844), mandatory ballot tracking (A10724, among other similar proposals), and widespread use of ballot drop boxes to reduce dependence on the postal service for the return of completed ballots.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz (D - Bronx) said: Today is a good day for voters in New York State. Even as we still have many unanswered questions about how the absentee voting process will be conducted, it was imperative that we address the underlying eligibility question first and foremost. Now that we have established all New Yorkers are eligible to receive absentee ballots for the next sixteen months, we can turn our focus to implementing basic procedural steps like ballot tracking technology and ballot drop boxes. Ultimately, it would be great if the federal government helped invest in protecting the integrity of our elections. But under the current White House and Senate leadership, I am not holding my breath and think New Yorkers will have to figure this out for ourselves to make sure we have widespread voter confidence in electoral results after the November 3 election.