Governor Andrew Cuomo ordered the state Board of Elections to send postage-paid absentee ballot applications on Friday to allow New Yorkers to vote in the June 23 primary.
“If you want to vote, we should send you a ballot so that you can vote and not have to come out and get on line,” said Governor Cuomo during his daily novel coronavirus press conference in the state capitol’s Red Room.
New York state’s presidential primary was originally scheduled for April 28 until Cuomo postponed them until June out of fear of further spreading the virus in packed polling sites and long lines.
New York is one of a dozen states that require residents to give an excuse in an absentee ballot application for why they physically can not go to a polling site, like illness or physical disability, in order to vote with an absentee ballot.
Earlier this month though, the governor signed an executive order allowing “no-excuse absentee voting.” Voters still have to apply for an absentee ballot but this order now makes that process free.
Concerns over voting have peppered the novel coronavirus pandemic with a chorus of Democratic lawmakers, voting rights activists and election experts urging for a transition to mail-in ballots.
“It’s clear that we have the tools at our disposal to expand democratic access and ensure that voter’s voices can be heard—even in the face of a major health crisis,” wrote New York state Assemblymember Yuh Line-Niou in a statement, one of a several New York lawmakers, like state who pushed for expanded voting access early on in the pandemic.
A bill sponsored by state Senator Alessandra Biaggi called for expanding absentee ballot voting laws to include fear of spreading or contracting the novel coronavirus as a valid excuse for voting via absentee ballot. Assemblymember Joe Lentol sponsored a bill called for mandated mail-in voting for the presidential primary which earned the support of Attorney General Leticia James in March.
“This is a major win for New Yorkers,” said Niou who hopes that expanded absentee voting access will stay long after the pandemic ends.
This story first appeared on amny.com.