NEW YORK, NY (07/13/2020) (readMedia)-- With one week until New York lawmakers head back into remote session and Boards of Elections (BOE) staff continue to count absentee ballots, the Let NY Vote Coalition - a statewide network of over 175 member organizations - released legislative recommendations that will protect and secure our upcoming November election.
In June, millions of voters cast their ballot absentee, early, or on Election Day. For the first time, all voters were allowed to vote via absentee because of an executive order issued by Governor Cuomo that has since expired. The BOE had two months to scale up their absentee program with limited funding and staff. While a majority of voters had a seamless voting experience, in some cases there were long lines, and voters never received their absentee ballot, or failed to get their absentee ballot postmarked in time.
In response, Let NY Vote released the following legislative priorities (and attached):
"The June primary election was unprecedented, but democracy does not pause, it adapts. The Boards of Elections -- faced with an unparalleled task of mailing out absentee ballots to every voter -- did a credible job, but it was not without problems. New York lawmakers must prioritize planning for the November election today. The Boards of Elections need ample time to prepare for the Presidential Election to guarantee that all votes count," said Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY.
"This November, New Yorkers will go to the polls in one of the most critical elections of our lifetime. Every New Yorker must have access to the ballot in order to participate in the election of leaders who will directly impact their rights and freedoms, including access to reproductive health care. In this pivotal moment for our state and nation, we need to take every available step to ensure all New Yorkers can exercise their right to vote," said Robin Chappelle Golston, President and CEO of Planned Parenthood Empire State Acts.
"NYCET and our partners are strongly committed to ensuring that every New Yorker is able to cast their ballot this upcoming General Election. Our communities deserve legislation that meet our needs as we continue to navigate the Covid crisis by making voter registration more accessible, guaranteeing access to absentee ballots and protecting our votes. We demand that Albany do right by all New Yorkers," said, Marcela Barrientos, Interim Executive Director at NYCET.
"Now more than ever, it's imperative that we empower every voter with safe options for how to cast their ballot this fall. All voters should have the option to easily vote by mail, participate in early voting or go to the polls on Election Day," said Crisanta Duran, NY State Director of DFER & former CO Speaker of the House.
"2020 has brought New Yorkers unprecedented challenges. Voting safely, without risk of disenfranchisement should not be one of them. The Legislature must enact these reforms as soon as possible to ensure every voter can safely cast a ballot and have that ballot be counted come November," said the New York Democratic Lawyers Committee.
"The June Primary was just a test run for conducting an election during a pandemic. The problems we saw last month could be multiplied manyfold In November if lawmakers do not act now. We must ensure voters can easily request, receive, and mail their absentee ballots, that young New Yorkers can register online, and that all votes are properly counted. We don't have a moment to waste," said Betsy Gotbaum, Executive Director of Citizens Union.
"The June primary highlighted many of the obvious inadequacies in New York State's absentee ballot counting procedures. Voters throughout the state were unsure whether their ballot would arrive in time to be counted, or whether their ballot would be rejected without their knowledge. This package of bills will address issues surrounding absentee voting in New York State as well as assuring voters that they will be able to continue to vote via absentee ballot during the ongoing coronavirus pandemic," said Jennifer Wilson of the League of Women Voters of NYS.
"COVID-19 presents many challenges to voting in this State and country. We can't provide voters with a choice between their health and their civic duty, so the Let NY Vote priority legislation list is an essential part of keeping our voters safe this fall. Absentee ballots are easy and convenient. They are so easy that officials like President Trump employ it!" said David H. Stonehill, Esq., David H. Stonehill, PC.
"The timing, pace, and scope of the current public health crisis has disrupted schools across New York, bringing civic engagement initiatives to a standstill and leaving hundreds of thousands of young people with limited opportunities to register to vote and exercise their rights. Generation Vote heard from educators across New York who had difficulty educating their students about how to apply for absentee ballots, and from students who were disenfranchised by not receiving their absentee ballots in time for the primary. We encourage the Legislature to make it easier for CUNY/SUNY students to receive critical information about how to vote absentee and to protect our right to vote in the most consequential election for our generation," said Generation Vote, Co-chairs of the LNYV Youth Working Group.
"As June primary results are canvassed, New Yorkers continue to witness how voting rights can be jeopardized during a State of Emergency when we lack modern election infrastructure and legal safeguards to ensure due process, said Jarret Berg, Co-Founder of VoteEarlyNY. We urge Albany lawmakers and the State Board to institute these proposals this summer, to make our elections more resilient in the face of crisis, and so New Yorkers have clarity and certainty that they will be able to safely access a ballot that will count this fall."
"We have no idea what November is going to look like. It is imperative that the legislature takes steps NOW to ensure that our elections run smoothly regardless of whether or not the situation improves in the next 4 months," from the Brooklyn Voters Alliance.
"By the calculated closing of polling places, by gerrymandering, by insisting that the increasingly more vulnerable have to take time off their minimum-wage jobs to vote, by any number of such dirty tricks, partisan forces choke off the voice of the people. Voting by mail is not pampering a spoiled electorate; it is becoming a necessity for representative voting to take place," from the Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance
The Let NY Vote coalition - a statewide network of over 175 member organizations - has been a leading voice on common sense election reform.