'Advertise on All WNY'

Most Recent News

Group says state 'can't flip a switch to vote by mail'


NEW YORK -- In response to news that Governor Cuomo might issue an executive order mandating vote by mail in New York, Susan Lerner, Executive Director of Common Cause/NY, issued the following statement:

"Jumping to an entire vote by mail system in New York state is setting up our elections for failure. States with vote by mail have spent years building up the infrastructure to sustain it from updating their voter rolls, to setting up secure dropoff locations, to creating protocols to compile and count every ballot. New York needs to expand absentee voting and early voting now to guarantee success in November, let alone June. We're hopeful that in a few years, we'll be able to transition to a vote by mail model, but right now in the middle of a pandemic New Yorkers do not need to be experimenting with a complete overhaul of our elections against the advice of all experts."

In an April 15th New York Times interview the Secretary of State of Washington, Kim Wyman, stated in no uncertain terms that, "you can't just flip a switch and go from real low absentee ballots to 100 percent vote-by-mail. I mean, as we sit here right now, in April, with a November election deadline, I'm not sure you could do it in states across the country."

She continued:

"In Washington State, we started by letting anyone do an absentee ballot for every election. And that was in 1993. By the late '90s, many counties like mine and here in Olympia, Thurston County, we're up to about 60 percent of our voters getting a ballot every election by mail. We would have some elections where 90 percent of our ballots were cast by mail, even in a poll site election. That continued until 2005, when we had a really close governor's race in '04, and our legislature allowed counties to move to vote-by-mail. And that really happened because that close governor's race showed that you couldn't do both elections well. You can't do a full-blown absentee ballot to every voter and set up all your polling places well because you're stretched too thin resource-wise. So essentially, our state wanted to move to vote-by-mail in 2005. It took five years to get all 39 of our counties to move to vote-by-mail."

Strictly vote by mail, without in-person sites, is a reach for New York since a successful program is dependent on the accuracy of the voter file. Common Cause/NY does not believe that the 58 Boards of Election (BOEs) have maintained up-to-date voter rolls. For example, in 2016, thousands of active Democratic voters were improperly moved to inactive status. If New York hastily institutes a vote by mail system, hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers may never receive a ballot. Even in full vote by mail states, there remain in-person options for voters who require language assistance or voters with disabilities who require ballot marking devices.

Common Cause/NY's recommendations:
  • [ENACTED] The April 28th presidential primary, and all other elections scheduled for that date, should be consolidated to the June 23rd primary given the escalating spread of the virus around the state. This will give local boards of elections much needed time to adjust their plans for early voting and election day.
  • [ENACTED] A uniform and measured expansion of the requirements to vote absentee extending the provisions of the Governor's Executive Order to make it easier for voters to request a ballot.
    • The process of requesting an absentee ballot requires voters to provide a mailing address where the ballot should be sent. This would dramatically increase the likelihood of a voter receiving their requested ballot. This would also provide BOEs an opportunity to update their voter file with the correct address.
  • Local boards of elections must immediately prepare to scale up for the expansion of absentee voting, which means:
    • developing a more robust ballot tracking process.
    • providing pre-paid postage for return envelopes.
    • designating an abundance of secure drop box locations that aren't just USPS mailboxes.
    • The state must allocate additional funds to deal with additional costs associated with printing, instituting new infrastructure, voter outreach and education, equipment maintenance, translation services, and staff training.
  • Maintain accomodations for in-person early voting and election day voting. For some voters, absentee voting is not feasible. This is particularly true for disabled voters who require the use of ballot marking devices such as those who are vision impaired, or have a disability or condition that would make it difficult or impossible to mark a ballot by hand as well as those who need access to translation services. Even '100% vote by mail states' like Washington still have in-person voting as an option during early voting and on election day.
  • Any in-person voting must be conducted in such a manner that voters, poll workers, and election administrators are kept safe and healthy by following the most recent CDC sanitary and mass gathering protocols. We recognize there may come a point when in-person voting must be significantly modified due to COVID-19.
Common Cause/NY to Mayor's Office: "Thank you for caring about ...

No comments