Queens assemblywoman introduces bill establishing absentee ballot tracker

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As more New Yorkers are expected to vote by absentee ballot due to the COVID-19 pandemic, Assemblywoman Catalina Cruz introduced legislation that establishes a secure portal that allows voters to track the status of their ballots.

The establishment of web and mobile-based applications increases transparency and allows individuals to see whether the Board of Elections approved or rejected their ballot.

“The fact that we continue to experience voter disenfranchisement in this day and age is outrageous. While the challenges of conducting an election during a public health crisis are understandable, the presence of widespread irregularities and incidents of voter suppression on Primary Day and in the counting of absentee ballots are extremely troubling,” Cruz said. “Further, nearly 30,000 New York City voters who requested absentee ballots by the request deadline did not receive them by Election Day. Voters must be assured that their vote counts and this bill is one step closer to ensuring this happens. I am proud to sponsor such an important bill that gives rights back to the voters.”

There is growing apprehension around the potential for compromised elections, as cyber threats and delays in postal service loom ahead of the November general election. In New York City alone, more than 84,000 absentee ballots were deemed invalid due to technical flaws in the 2020 primaries.

“Every eligible voter should be able to cast their ballot freely, efficiently, safely, and most importantly, confidently. Confident that as they perform their civic duty, their voice will be heard and not disenfranchised,” said Bronx state Senator Luis Sepúlveda, who carried the measure in the upper chamber. “Unfortunately, this was not the case for tens of thousands on New York voters whose absentee ballots were not adequately counted for in the June 2020 primaries. As mail-in voting becomes more prevalent in light of the COVID-19 pandemic, we must protect and secure New Yorkers’ right to exercise their vote and give them peace of mind that their ballot has been received, approved and counted, or rejected. Implementing an Absentee Ballot Tracker will play a massive role in the upcoming elections.”

While the city’s Board of Election launched a similar web-based portal earlier this month, the Cruz/Sepúlveda bill would affect ballots throughout the state. The legislation further aims to have an economic impact, as the application would need to hire staff to develop, update and monitor the portal.

“As a record number of voters plan to vote by absentee ballot in November, lawmakers should do whatever possible to give these voters a peace of mind that their applications and ballots have been received and will be counted,” League of Women Voters of New York State Executive Director Laura Ladd Bierman said. “Allowing voters a secure way to view the status of their applications and ballots is a common-sense reform that voters will understand and welcome. We applaud Senator Sepúlveda and Assembly Member Catalina Cruz for introducing this legislation and hope to see it passed and signed into law in time for the 2020 election.”