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Amid USPS slowdown, two local NYS lawmakers support absentee ballot dropoff boxes

Michael Mroziak, WBFO

People choosing to vote by absentee ballot would be able to deposit their ballots in special dropoff boxes, under a bill announced this morning by two local state legislators.

State Assembly members Sean Ryan and Monica Wallace joined outside the Post Office location at Grant Street and Bird Avenue in Buffalo to announce the proposed legislation. If passed, county boards of elections would be authorized to distribute absentee ballot dropoff boxes.

Ryan, who is introducing the bill in the Assembly, says the boxes would provide a convenient and safe alternative to those who wish to use absentee ballots as their means to vote during the pandemic.

"Every state does it differently. Most states have boxes that can accept between 2,500 and 5,000 ballots," he said. "And they've been used across the country without any incident. They usually put them in high-visibility areas, with proper lighting, maybe sometimes security cameras just to make sure."

The United States Postal Service, in recent weeks, has experienced changes including the removal of sidewalk mailboxes and, according to the Washington Post, the removal of hundreds of sorting machines from mail distribution centers across the country.

Postmaster General Louis DeJoy has claimed the changes are part of a strategy to foster efficiency. Others suspect DeJoy, a supporter of President Donald Trump who was appointed to the position earlier this year, has other motivations.

"The United States Postal Service is under attack. We have an administration who is threatening to defund the Post Office to serve their political agenda," said Assembly member Monica Wallace, who is co-sponsoring the bill. "Americans have relied on the Postal Service for over 200 years. They depend on timely delivery of checks, of bills, of social security checks, of prescription drugs, of veterans' benefits. And we depend upon the timely delivery of absentee ballots."

Last Thursday morning, President Trump stated his opposition to a proposed boost in funding for the US Postal Service, suggesting without proof that expanded mail-in voting would result in rampant fraud. Later in the day he stated he wouldn't block a COVID relief bill if it included postal service relief funding, but he continued to push his claims about mail-in ballot fraud.

While it would be up to the respective county election officials to decide where dropoff boxes would be located, Ryan says there would be consideration for citizens in underserved neighborhoods.

"That's the kind of place we'd be looking for. Community centers, senior centers, places where people who aren't advantaged, often don't have access to cars. They're not going to be driving down to the Board of Elections to drop their ballot off," he said. "But if in fact we brought the boxes to them, and they had the ability to vote right at senior centers, right at community centers, then I think that's the recipe for success in making sure your vote is counted."

While the Legislature would not normally return to Albany until January, Ryan anticipates lawmakers will return to session in about two weeks. He plans to push his new bill at that time.

Michael Mroziak is an experienced, award-winning reporter whose career includes work in broadcast and print media. When he joined the WBFO news staff in April 2015, it was a return to both the radio station and to Horizons Plaza.
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