Campaigns & Elections

The scramble to fix New York’s election issues before November

New legislation would address some, but not all, of the issues that caused many June 23 primary ballots to get disqualified.

There are three months left to address voting issues before the general election in November.

There are three months left to address voting issues before the general election in November. NYCstock/Shutterstock

COVID-19 deserves some of the blame for the disenfranchisement of a large chunk of the state electorate during last month’s primary elections – but not all. While the realities of the pandemic did lead to an exponential increase in absentee voting, a combination of antiquated election laws, a lack of funding, and other issues led to the ultimate disqualification of one out of every five votes – a significantly higher rate than in past elections in New York, which has notoriously strict ballot verification rules – as local officials continue counting votes more than a month later.

Some people had their votes tossed because their signatures appeared different than before, or there was no postmark on the envelopes in which they were sent. Many people did not even receive a ballot from their local election boards until after Election Day.

There are just three months left to address such issues before the November election – and local boards of election would have to begin implementing many changes as soon as possible. Given the political stakes, local, state and federal officials have plenty of motivation to get moving sooner rather than later. 

“New York’s rejection rate for absentee ballots is alarmingly high,” said Danielle Lang, the co-director of voting rights and redistricting at the Campaign Legal Center, which is representing the League of Women Voters in an ongoing lawsuit against the state Board of Elections. “The lack of notice to voters and an opportunity to fix errors must be resolved with urgency.”

A package of bills making its way through the state Legislature this week includes a number of relevant changes. While some of the legislation appears to support the broader cause of improving state election laws – for example, by codifying in state law (rather than through an executive order) that people can vote absentee out of fear of contracting the coronavirus – only a few would deal with the specific issues that arose during the June 23 primary in a way that would ensure fewer people are disenfranchised in November. (Early voting in upstate cities would also get a boost under a third bill that is expected to pass the Assembly on Thursday after passing the state Senate Wednesday.)

The legislative changes moving through the state Senate and Assembly this week roughly fall into two categories. The first deals with reducing the ways that a ballot can be disqualified. One bill requires absentee ballots without postmarks to be counted as long as they are received by election officials within one day of Election Day. Another bill requires local election officials to notify voters of any disqualifying issues with their ballots, which could then be fixed.

Other changes aim to make it easier to vote absentee. A different bill removes a state rule that only allows 30 days for the application process. “The hope is that most people apply for the absentee ballot early so that the process can start,” said state Senate Elections Committee Chair Zellnor Myrie. “And you (will not) have this logjam at the post office and then subsequently at the board of elections.” 

One issue notably missing from the legislative agenda this week: proposals to ensure that local boards of election have the additional funding, staff and resources to deal with the expected surge in absentee voting. State lawmakers will be examining such issues at an Aug. 11 hearing, which will offer more insight into the effects of different issues like postmarks and understaffing at boards of election, but there is little chance of them acting to increase taxes or otherwise compel the governor to devote additional resources at a time when there is a statewide struggle to cope with large budget deficits caused by the pandemic. “If you think that that’s gonna make a difference by Election Day, you’re barking up the wrong tree,” Assembly Elections Committee Chair Charles Lavine said. “The federal government is the only hope.”

There is some hope that Democrats and Republicans will strike a deal in the upcoming weeks on a federal stimulus package that would include additional money to support state election efforts. Such funding might end up being closer to the $400 million that some Republicans support rather than the full $3.6 billion that House Democrats approved weeks ago, according to The Hill, but a little help from the feds could go a long way toward mitigating many of the problems that afflicted absentee voting in New York and other states.

If the federal government moves fast enough, then state lawmakers might even have time to act on any of the various legislative proposals that might come up following the upcoming hearing. Given the stakes of the upcoming election and all the various ways that COVID-19 has disrupted the political process, there is always a chance that state lawmakers might have to reconvene one more time this summer or fall to make sure that as many votes as possible get counted in November. “There’s never a wrong time for us to do the right thing,” Myrie said. “We are coming up against one of the most important elections of our lifetime.”

X
This website uses cookies to enhance user experience and to analyze performance and traffic on our website. We also share information about your use of our site with our social media, advertising and analytics partners. Learn More / Do Not Sell My Personal Information
Accept Cookies
X
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Do Not Sell My Personal Information

When you visit our website, we store cookies on your browser to collect information. The information collected might relate to you, your preferences or your device, and is mostly used to make the site work as you expect it to and to provide a more personalized web experience. However, you can choose not to allow certain types of cookies, which may impact your experience of the site and the services we are able to offer. Click on the different category headings to find out more and change our default settings according to your preference. You cannot opt-out of our First Party Strictly Necessary Cookies as they are deployed in order to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting the cookie banner and remembering your settings, to log into your account, to redirect you when you log out, etc.). For more information about the First and Third Party Cookies used please follow this link.

Allow All Cookies

Manage Consent Preferences

Strictly Necessary Cookies - Always Active

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data, Targeting & Social Media Cookies

Under the California Consumer Privacy Act, you have the right to opt-out of the sale of your personal information to third parties. These cookies collect information for analytics and to personalize your experience with targeted ads. You may exercise your right to opt out of the sale of personal information by using this toggle switch. If you opt out we will not be able to offer you personalised ads and will not hand over your personal information to any third parties. Additionally, you may contact our legal department for further clarification about your rights as a California consumer by using this Exercise My Rights link

If you have enabled privacy controls on your browser (such as a plugin), we have to take that as a valid request to opt-out. Therefore we would not be able to track your activity through the web. This may affect our ability to personalize ads according to your preferences.

Targeting cookies may be set through our site by our advertising partners. They may be used by those companies to build a profile of your interests and show you relevant adverts on other sites. They do not store directly personal information, but are based on uniquely identifying your browser and internet device. If you do not allow these cookies, you will experience less targeted advertising.

Social media cookies are set by a range of social media services that we have added to the site to enable you to share our content with your friends and networks. They are capable of tracking your browser across other sites and building up a profile of your interests. This may impact the content and messages you see on other websites you visit. If you do not allow these cookies you may not be able to use or see these sharing tools.

If you want to opt out of all of our lead reports and lists, please submit a privacy request at our Do Not Sell page.

Save Settings
Cookie Preferences Cookie List

Cookie List

A cookie is a small piece of data (text file) that a website – when visited by a user – asks your browser to store on your device in order to remember information about you, such as your language preference or login information. Those cookies are set by us and called first-party cookies. We also use third-party cookies – which are cookies from a domain different than the domain of the website you are visiting – for our advertising and marketing efforts. More specifically, we use cookies and other tracking technologies for the following purposes:

Strictly Necessary Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Functional Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Performance Cookies

We do not allow you to opt-out of our certain cookies, as they are necessary to ensure the proper functioning of our website (such as prompting our cookie banner and remembering your privacy choices) and/or to monitor site performance. These cookies are not used in a way that constitutes a “sale” of your data under the CCPA. You can set your browser to block or alert you about these cookies, but some parts of the site will not work as intended if you do so. You can usually find these settings in the Options or Preferences menu of your browser. Visit www.allaboutcookies.org to learn more.

Sale of Personal Data

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Social Media Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.

Targeting Cookies

We also use cookies to personalize your experience on our websites, including by determining the most relevant content and advertisements to show you, and to monitor site traffic and performance, so that we may improve our websites and your experience. You may opt out of our use of such cookies (and the associated “sale” of your Personal Information) by using this toggle switch. You will still see some advertising, regardless of your selection. Because we do not track you across different devices, browsers and GEMG properties, your selection will take effect only on this browser, this device and this website.