June 15, 2009

Assembly Passes Paper Ballot Reform Measures

Legislation extends absentee ballot qualifications, allows for ballot requests by e-mail

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Election Law Committee Chair Joan Millman announced today the passage of an election reform package aimed at including more voters in the democratic process. The package includes measures that simplify and streamline the processes for absentee voting, extend absentee voting qualifications and make permanent certain allowances for military and overseas absentee ballots.

"These bills take important steps in continuing the Assembly Majority's efforts to reform the election process in New York State while ensuring the integrity of our voting system," said Silver (D-Manhattan), who sponsored a bill (A.8376) that would make permanent a 2005 law that allows military voters to sign their ballot envelopes before a witness rather than obtain a postmark, and extends the time frame for receipt of military ballots to 13 days after a general election. The measure also extends the time frame for special election ballots, and allows military and oversees ballots to be requested by fax or e-mail.

"Extending the time for military and other overseas ballots will better ensure that no American living overseas will be disenfranchised in New York because of their distance and the time it takes to send mail from the far corners of the world," Silver added.

"The bills in this package aim to ensure that more New Yorkers are able to participate in elections," said Millman (D-Brooklyn). "From allowing voters to request absentee ballots through e-mail to streamlining the registration process, these measures will empower more citizens to exercise their democratic rights."

One measure would simplify the affidavit ballot voting process (A.4015A/Kavanagh). Currently, those who vote via affidavit ballot who are found unregistered by the board of elections are then sent an application to register to vote. This legislation would instead use the information taken for the affidavit to enroll that voter for future elections.

Other bills in the package would extend requirements to allow more voters to qualify for absentee ballots and eliminate the need to provide personal information which opens the door to challenge the ballot on minor technicalities (A.5276A/Galef), and allow caregivers of those who are ill or disabled to qualify for an absentee ballot (A.3367A/Englebright). Qualified voters would also be allowed to request an absentee ballot via letter, fax or other written instrument, such as e-mail (A.7347/Galef).