The New York State Elections Commissioners’ Association is calling for immediate action by the Governor and New York State Legislature to protect our electoral process during the COVID-19 pandemic. Election Boards throughout the state are risking personnel safety and health to prepare for impending elections on April 28, 2020. We are facing critical shortages of inspectors and polling places due to the ongoing public health crisis. Over the next week, BOEs will find it almost impossible to meet mission critical deadlines for testing machines and preparing ballots because of staff shortages due to the ongoing stay-at-home order. We ask Governor Andrew Cuomo, NYS Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie, and NYS Senate Leader Andrea Stewart-Cousins to consider the following items by either Executive Order or Legislative action:
1.) Postponing the Democratic Presidential Primary scheduled for April 28th to June 23rd. Fielding inspectors in the midst of this health crisis is dangerous and may be impossible. Traditional polling places may be unusable as they are currently restricted or closed to the public. Postponing until June will not only give us time to plan, but will ease the burdens on host counties budgets that are devastated by the COVID-19 crisis.
2.) Amend 8-400 of NYS Election Law to allow for Absentee Balloting during all times of declared state of emergency due to infectious disease or pandemic. This will allow all voters who are at-risk but perhaps not yet sick to apply for and receive an absentee ballot. At risk or vulnerable citizens should not have to make decisions on whether to exercise their right to vote or risk their health.
3.) For all Primary & Special Elections: Give wide latitude to the local Board of Elections to consolidate polling places and election districts to best operate the election. While we hope the COVID 19 crisis will be better by June, it is quite likely we will have limited numbers of polling places and inspectors even then. We need this flexibility to adjust to circumstances on the ground in our jurisdictions that may be changing right up until the June 23rd Election.
Acting on these items will buy us precious time and save our host counties significant amount of resources while also preserving the rights of voters and safety and health of Election Workers. Every day that we do not act makes us less prepared and wastes valuable time and money.
Photo: Dustin M. Czarny, Democratic Caucus Chair, NYS Elections Commissioners’ Association,Onondaga County elections Commissioner (D)