UTICA, N.Y. --- Attorney General James’ is calling for all eligible voters in the State of New York to automatically be sent an absentee ballot for the upcoming election, instead of just giving them an option to vote by absentee ballot.
Automatically sending out absentee ballots would not require the state to alter the statewide application by adding a “public health emergency” option, and would avoid the possibility of leaving polls open for voters to vote in person on Election Day — potentially further spreading the virus and risking public health.
The change has bipartisan support here locally. Senator Joe Griffo said he supports the change given current health crisis.
"I have always been a proponent of no-excuse absentee balloting. But that would require a constitutional change and the public would have to approve of it next year. So I think all options are available for consideration. We are working in the legislative realm as well as our constitutional abilities. But this is a special circumstance and a public emergency," said Griffo.
The elections this change would impact are the April Presidential Primary, as well as special elections to fill seats in the 27th congressional district, the 50th senate district, the 12th assembly district, the 31st assembly district, and the 136th assembly district.
Under current law, voters need to give a reason to apply for an absentee ballot. COVID 19 is not one of the reasons available to choose.
Assemblywoman Buttenschon said that the new process would automatically send eligible voters an absentee ballot. A process she says would make voting easier.
"I think we are talking about making this easier for voters. So hopefully we will see the significance of those who would like to vote who possibly couldn't in the past and didn't have the opportunity to complete the application in a timely manner," said Buttenschon.
An Assemblyman has announced that he will be introducing the bill to the legislature early next week.
Across the nation, there are currently 33 states that already offer absentee voting with no reason necessary — making New York an outlier for only allowing vote-by-mail or absentee voting under a narrow set of circumstances.