New Yorkers: Make your voting plan
BY LAURA WOOD AND JARRET BERG
Amid the ongoing uncertainty and
hardship wrought by the raging
COVID-19 pandemic, one bright
spot where relief has kept pace with
the public health emergency in New
York is the progress made reducing
longstanding barriers to voter access,
by modernizing our elections and
improving voter convenience.
Although there are evolving headwinds
to political participation, New
York is providing voters safe and convenient
options to make their voices heard
at the ballot box. For those who have
not cast a ballot since the midterm elections
in 2018, there are now “Three ways
to vote in Election 2020” instead of the
single Election Day, providing residents
with fl exible in-person and remote voting
options to choose from in the
Early Voting: Saturday Oct. 24 –
Nov. 1. Thanks to 2019 legislation that
created a reasonable in-person early
voting period, New York City will now
offer residents an additional 64 hours to
vote over nine days, including two weekends
and evening hours on select weekdays.
The early voting period runs
from Sat. October 24 – Sun. November
1. During this time City voters may
visit their assigned early voting location—
one of eighty-eight being deployed
around the City. Those that do will privately
mark and scan their ballot just
as they would on Election Day, minus
the big crowds.
Casting a ballot during the early voting
period allows New Yorkers to maintain
adequate social distance while
BRONX TIMES REPORTER,12 OCTOBER 23-29, 2020 BTR
voting. By spreading voters out over several
days instead of one marathon voting
day, early voting is one of the most
prescient recent reforms, adopted before
social distancing was understood to be
a public health benefi t. New Yorkers,
always mindful to wear their masks,
have the option to include voting early
as they venture out for groceries or run
errands. One more benefi t: Early voters
avoid USPS logistics entirely; there is no
need to forage for stamps.
Voting from Home: Request
your ballot by Oct. 27. As New
York’s COVID infections surged this
past spring, Governor Cuomo clarifi
ed in an Executive Order that a voter’s
unavailability to appear in person
due to “temporary illness”—one of the
permissible reasons—includes “the
prevalence and community spread of
COVID-19” illness, including “the potential
for contraction.” This summer,
lawmakers codifi ed this understanding,
permitting any New Yorker to vote
from home, but only if they request
a ballot by the Oct. 27 deadline.
For those considering voting from
home, it’s easier than ever to do so.
Thanks to a new law, anyone with internet
access can request a mail ballot online
in seconds by completing a simple
online form. New Yorkers can also request
a ballot by calling 1-866-VOTENYC
Various due process safeguards
have also been enacted to better
protect our voting rights from
several technical pitfalls. Critically,
City voters can now track a ballot request
and will be able to confi rm that
completed ballots have been timely received
by the Board. voters who are skittish
about returning a ballot through
the mail or are short on stamps may
drop off their signed, dated, and sealed
ballot envelope without waiting in
line, via any of the secure contactless
drop boxes that will be located at
the entrance of all early voting or election
day poll sites, and all City Board
of Elections offi ces. For those mailing
in a completed ballot, although postage
is required, the USPS agreed on
Friday that it would to deliver election
mail with insuffi cient postage, as part
of a legal settlement.
Despite a recent error that resulted
in a large subset of Brooklyn absentee voters
receiving incorrect oath envelopes,
nobody’s vote will be counted twice because
envelopes with signatures belonging
to an entirely different voter must be
set aside. The real concern, however,
is a risk of suppression among those
impacted who might ignore the remedial
(second) mailer if they believe they’ve already
voted. Stakeholders are attempting
to notify those affected. You can help by
sharing this PSA.
Vote on Election Day: Tuesday
Nov. 3, 6 AM– 9 PM: New Yorkers are
still welcome to wait for Election Day, the
last opportunity to vote, when polls will
be open from 6 AM to 9 PM, but now they
have some really decent alternatives to
avoid crowding at poll sites. But we have
to spread the word so New Yorkers can
make informed voting plans.
That is why the Mayor’s Democracy
NYC Initiative, through an informal
consortium of agencies including
the Campaign Finance Board and voting
rights groups have committed to
educating voters about these changes
through robust outreach in multiple
languages directed at voters in the
communities hardest hit by COVID-19,
many of which also have historically
Many things about New York are necessarily
different now, at least for the
time being. But one series of long-overdue
changes that need not sunset are the
many improvements to voter access.
Laura Wood is the Senior Advisor and
General Counsel at the Mayor’s DemocracyNYC
Initiative. Jarret Berg attorney
and co-founder of the non-partisan VoteEarlyNY.
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