Voting Rights Groups Urge Cuomo To Issue an EO for Pre Paid Postage for Absentee Ballots

+ Sens Rivera & May, AM Gottfried

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NEW YORK, NY (09/10/2020) (readMedia)-- As Governor Cuomo encourages more New Yorkers to vote absentee, Common Cause/NY, along with dozens of voting rights groups including New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) and the Center for Popular Democracy, urged the Governor to issue an executive order for mandating the provision of pre-paid postages on absentee ballot return envelopes. Currently, voters will have to pay for the stamp to return their ballots. For voters on a fixed income or those who should not risk their health to vote in person due to COVID-19, the missing postage could mean missing out on the election.

Excerpted from the letter: "recognizing the heightened importance of voting in the year 2020, the unrivaled uniqueness of the pandemic - risk of contagion, high stakes for voters with disabilities, dangers to individual and public health, lack of discretionary income for many voters currently and the need for compassion (and therefore accommodations wherever practical) especially to those most vulnerable, there is a compelling unrelenting need for continuity in how New York conducts its elections, at a time when elections are needed most. Saving government costs - even in a time of dire budgetary crisis - would not justify the denial of prepaid return postage since this is too important to democratic institutions."

Full letter attached from the Let NY Vote coalition. Full list of signatories is: Academy of Medical & Public Health Services, ACCESS of WNY, ADL NY/NJ, Arab American Association of New York, Bangladeshi American Community Development and Youth Services Brooklyn Voters Alliance, Cabrini Immigrant Services of NYC, Center for Popular Democracy, Central American Refugee Center, Citizens Union Common Cause/NY, Community Votes, Council on American-Islamic Relations, New York (CAIR-NY), Disabled In Action of Metropolitan New York, Dominicanos USA, Downstate New York ADAPT, Dutchess County Progressive Action Alliance, Elmont Cultural Center, Faith in New York, Generation Citizen, Generation Vote, Housing Conservation Coordinations, Indivisible Westchester, Interfaith Impact of New York State Justice for Migrant Families, WNY League of Independent Theater, Literacy Nassau, Long Island Civic Engagement Table, Long Island Progressive Coalition, Lower Hudson Valley DSA, Make the Road NY, Morningside Heights Resistance, Neighbors Link, New York Civic Engagement Table, New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU), New York State Council of Churches, Nobody Leaves Mid-Hudson Open Buffalo, Port Chester Immigrant Defense, Public Citizen, PUSH Buffalo, Saratoga County Economic Opportunity Council, Inc., The Arc of Justice, Upper West Side Action Vote Early NY, WESPAC.

The Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under the Law also sent a letter signed by the NAACP, Common Cause New York, the New York Immigration Coalition and the Center for Law and Social Justice, Medgar Evers College, CUNY. That letter is also attached.

In June, Governor Cuomo issued an executive order, that has since expired, that provided pre-paid postage on return envelopes in the primary election. Counties were only charged for the envelopes returned to the Board of Elections. Other states across the country provided voters with pre-paid postage prior to the pandemic. Now, other states, including Pennsylvania, which have scaled up their absentee program since March, offer voters pre-paid envelopes.

The Senate Chair of the Aging Committee, Rachel May, and the Senate and Assembly Health Chairs, Gustavo Rivera and Richard Gottfried respectively, also called for pre-paid postage stamps.

"We need safe, secure, and healthy ways for people to exercise their right to vote and we must make sure that voting is accessible to everyone. Older New Yorkers are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 and should be able to vote via absentee ballot with the confidence that it will be delivered to the Board of Election and that it will not be a financial hardship for them. Many older New Yorkers are on fixed incomes and with limited mobility, making it difficult for them to return a ballot to their poll site or to buy postage. All absentee ballots should have their postage pre-paid so that everyone can be confident their vote will be counted and they can remain safe and healthy," said State Senator Rachel May.

"It is our responsibility as a State to ensure that every New Yorker is able to exercise their civic duty this November while protecting their health," said State Senator Gustavo Rivera. "Mandating pre-paid ballots for this year's general election is the right step to take if we want to make real inroads in increasing our State's voter participation rate."

"We need to make sure all steps be taken so voters can safely and freely make their voice heard," said Assembly Member Richard Gottfried. "New York mandated pre-paid postage in the June primaries and must do that for the general election. New Yorkers should never have to choose between their duty to vote and their health."