New York state Senator Zellnor Myrie cast his ballot in person during the early vote period in his state’s June primary. He’d applied for an absentee ballot —which didn’t arrive in his mailbox until a day before the election. So rather than hold out for it, he decided to go in to ensure he would get the chance to vote, figuring he wasn’t at too much additional risk of contracting the coronavirus.
But for the thousands of other New Yorkers who, like Myrie, reportedly didn’t receive their absentee ballots in a timely fashion or at all, weighing their right to vote against the public and personal health risks of going to a polling station may not have been so easy. It’s a choice voting access advocates say no one should have to make.
New York’s June 23 primary did not go smoothly. The issues election officials and voters faced were wide ranging, but hinged mostly on a massive number of absentee ballots flooding a system that was simply unequipped to process them. In the 2016 primary, New York state had 157,885 requests for absentee ballots; this year, the state, which at one point was the epicenter of the deadly battle against COVID-19, received more than 1.7 million requests.
The sunniest interpretations of the primary have focused on participation being high because voting by mail was made more accessible. But state officials are anxious about the host of problems that came up, and what they could mean come November. An unclear number of voters were disenfranchised due to technicalities, like missing signatures, or the government’s inability to expeditiously get ballots in the hands of voters.
One New York state Board of Elections official, Douglas Kellner, estimates tens of thousands of eligible voters were disenfranchised, and notes the bulk of the state’s problems occurred in New York City and Westchester County. Processing the huge number of absentee ballots has caused a long delay in election results. More than a month later, some results, including those of high-profile congressional races, are still not decided.
“If we do not fix the logistical problems, it is going to be a recipe for confusion and chaos leading up to the most consequential election of our lifetimes,” says Myrie. “It is incumbent on the state to make this a top priority.”
Now New York officials are scrambling to avoid a similar situation in November, when the pandemic is still expected to affect the general election. Kellner, who is the Democratic co-chair and commissioner of the New York State BOE, says he’s “very frustrated in dealing with the senior staff at the [New York City] board of elections to get them to recognize what they need to do to get this job done. And they are very frustrated because what we’re asking them to do is very hard.”
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Source:: Time – Politics