March 2, 2011

Assembly Passes Election Reform Measure

New legislation helps more military personnel to vote in special elections

Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Election Law Committee Chair Joan Millman and Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Phil Ramos today announced the passage of legislation that would enable more voters – particularly military personnel – to participate in special elections.

The bill (A.5698) would provide boards of elections additional time prior to special elections, for election officials to finalize and transmit military ballots. The legislation, which is a governor’s program bill, is being sponsored by Millman and Ramos.

"When a vacancy occurs, it is crucial that the residents of that area are represented again as quickly as possible," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "At the same time, it is important to expand the timeline to accommodate the participation of the men and women of the military."

"Extending the time for special elections will help the men and women serving in the armed forces to participate in special elections while stationed far from home, and ensure their voices are heard," said Millman (D-Brooklyn). "We cannot let our citizens become disenfranchised during their military service."

"We must ensure that the brave men and women serving our country overseas have their voice heard in special elections," said Ramos (D-Central Islip). "This legislation protects the integrity of the election process and ensures every ballot – including military ones - are counted."

The measure would:

This measure builds on the Assembly’s 2009 and 2010 legislative packages that have included a provision that made permanent certain allowances for military and overseas absentee ballots. In addition, they allowed military voters to sign their ballot envelopes before a witness rather than obtain a postmark, and extended the time frame for receipt of military ballots from 7 to 13 days after a general election. Previous legislation also extended the time frame for special election ballots, and allowed military and overseas ballots to be requested by fax or e-email.