Months before a single vote was cast, Governor Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order allowing New Yorkers to vote by absentee ballot in the primary due to the pandemic. In New York City, more than 765,000 voters requested mail-in ballots.
On the night of the election, results for many races were unclear due to the high volume of absentee ballots that the Board of Elections still had to count. More than a month later, the delays continue as the Board of Elections has still not certified the results.
What’s even more troubling is the rate of absentee ballots that were invalidated for a variety of reasons. Some voters did not sign their ballots while others did not have postmarks, which were required o show they were returned on time.
These invalidated ballots have consequences in close races, like the congressional contest between longtime representative Carolyn Maloney and second-time challenger Suraj Patel. According to reports, nearly one-in-five absentee ballots were tossed out in the race, including more than a quarter of mail-in ballots in the north Brooklyn part of the district.
Given the high-profile issues with the absentee ballot system, which will likely be in place for the general election, New York needs to enact reforms immediately.
Luckily, state lawmakers have done just that by passing a slate of voting reforms. The legislation would give voters notice of any deficiencies in their absentee ballot envelopes, and provide them with an opportunity to fix them.
Another bill would presume that mail-in ballots were dropped off in a timely manner, even if they do not have a dated postmark, as long as it was received and time stamped by the day of the election.
The package of reforms includes encouraging ideas like authorizing online voter registration in New York City and implementing automatic voter registration when someone interacts with a state agency.
These proposals only enhance participation in elections, which New York desperately needs to fix. At a time when other states are disenfranchising voters, the Empire State should be making it easier for people to vote.
Now that these bills are through the state legislature, they just need Governor Andrew Cuomo’s signature.
There’s no time to wait. Cuomo should sign the package now and get moving on ensuring the general election won’t be a mess like the primary.