Should fear of COVID-19 be a reason to get an absentee ballot?
SULLIVAN COUNTY, NY — Should fear of COVID-19 be a reason to get an absentee ballot?
It was for the June 23 primaries, but if you’re hoping that will apply to the November elections, you need to reach out to Gov. Cuomo’s office and let him know.
That executive order has expired.
At last Thursday’s Sullivan County Government Services Committee meeting, board of elections (BOE) commissioner Cora Edwards talked about the June 23 election, the impact of the many, many applications for absentee ballots and the far fewer polling places open. She heaped praise on the hard-working BOE staff, but their experience serves as a warning for this fall.
“We’re all very proud of the BOE staff,” said Edwards. “We’ve been caught by executive order after executive order, new legislation by new legislation, and the fact that we’ve been able to meet and comply with all these rules and regulations is pretty astounding.”
Elections inspectors, uneasy about COVID-19, backed out. “Many of them are in a high-risk category,” said Edwards. The number of polling places dropped from 33 to 11. Voting hours were extended from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.
And then there were the 35,000 absentee ballot requests.
On April 9, Cuomo temporarily allowed the potential to catch COVID-19 to qualify as a “temporary illness” so voters could request absentee ballots. This only covered an election on or before June 23.
Letters asking for absentee ballots have to be received by the Board of Elections 30 days before the elections. “We had to get 35,000 applications out and process those that came back,” said Edwards. “But whatever came our way, [the staff was] able to handle it.”
Twenty-two percent actually voted, “which is high for a primary,” she said.
So the thing to keep in mind for November? Make sure you know what the rules are for absentee ballots. Make sure you get your letter submitted in time if you’re going to apply. Be kind to the election officials. And whether or not you vote in person, wear your mask.
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