Election Day is June 23, 2020 for State & Federal Primaries
Voting in New York is undergoing major shifts, with more possibly to come. Governor Andrew Cuomo in April signed an executive order mandating that the State Board of Elections send every registered voter in the state an absentee ballot application with paid postage to facilitate voting in elections slated for June 23 without increasing the risk of exposure to the novel coronavirus, COVID-19.
The June election, with an early voting period preceding it, will feature party presidential primary, party primaries for congressional, state legislative, and local races, after several elections on New York’s calendar were delayed because of the coronavirus outbreak. The executive order also cancelled special elections for the state Assembly, state Senate, and Queens Borough President that were slated to take place that day -- but the primaries for all those races will still happen.
There is no guarantee that the risk of exposure to the coronavirus will be eliminated by June, which has prompted these steps by the governor to ensure that New Yorkers can still participate in the democratic process. “We've seen elections held where we have people on lines for a long period of time. It makes no sense to me to tell people, ‘You have to put your life at risk, violate social distancing to come out to vote,’” Cuomo said at this daily coronavirus briefing in Albany on Friday, just under two months from the June election day. So, the governor has already signed an executive order allowing all voters to request an absentee ballot for the June primary based on the risk of contracting the coronavirus. But that still requires voters to obtain a ballot application from the BOE, return it, receive the absentee ballot, and return that too.
Some local county boards of elections have begun to move to online applications. The New York City BOE launched an online portal for city residents and is also accepting applications by email, fax or phone. But concerns were raised by legislators and election reform advocates that the measure was insufficient, particularly if voters don’t have access to the internet or printers at home, and obtaining a physical application from the relevant board would be unfeasible as people shelter at home.
The new order would mandate that applications are sent to registered voters, but not a ballot itself, which would have been unconstitutional, said Melissa DeRosa, secretary to the governor, at the briefing. “I know some people thought that this should be, ‘You send everybody an actual ballot to vote,’ and we don't think that that's within our constitutional right, for the governor's directive powers to override the constitution and create a mail-in voting system where one otherwise doesn't exist,” she said.
Early Voting Period is June 13, 2020 – June 21, 2020
Advocates like those at Common Cause NY were also concerned that a vote-by-mail program alone could be riddled with problems if implemented on such a quick timeline – the BOE could fail to mail ballots to 970,000 ‘inactive’ voters who are registered with political parties; mailed ballots wouldn’t provide accommodations for the visually impaired or those with limited English proficiency; residents sheltering out of state may never receive a ballot. But the governor’s order should allay those fears, since in-person voting will still continue and all voters, active and inactive, will receive a ballot application, according to the executive order. “We're saying you have both options. You can go to the poll or you can vote absentee,” Cuomo said.
Asked by reporters about any possible opposition to his order, Cuomo said, “If you’re against absentees, then everybody goes to the polls. Is that what they want?”
The early voting period for the primary is from June 13 to June 21. Early voting sites have not been confirmed and, by law, must be made public 45 days before the election.
NYC Absentee Ballot Request please email AbsenteeJune2020@boe.nyc or call 1-866-VOTE-NYC
The BOE website can be used only by registered New York City voters to apply for an Absentee Ballot for the June 23, 2020 Elections.
To Apply for a Ballot:
- Online - Click Here
- Email application to AbsenteeJune2020@boe.nyc
- Fax application to 212-487-5349
- Mail application to local borough office
- Calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC (1-866-868-3692)
NY Presidential Primary
On Monday, April 27, the state Board of Elections also cancelled the Democratic presidential primary since all the candidates have conceded to former Vice President Joe Biden. The Republican presidential primary had already been cancelled in February. The power to cancel the Democratic primary had been granted to the Democratic BOE representatives by new language inserted into a state budget bill by the governor and legislators and passed in early April with the rest of the budget.
This week, a federal judge restored the New York Democratic presidential primary, ruling Tuesday that its cancellation by the New York State Board of Elections last month was unconstitutional.
The order from U.S. District Judge Analisa Torres returns all qualifying presidential candidates — including Vermont Senator Bernie Sanders — to the primary ballot and mandates that the election must take place June 23, as previously scheduled.
The federal judge also determined that New York "has sufficient time to take necessary steps to protect voters," with seven weeks to go until primary day.
On Wednesday night, the New York Board of Elections announced it will appeal the court decision.
Portions of the blog were reprinted with permission from Gotham Gazette. With reporting by Samar Khurshid, senior reporter, Gotham Gazette