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Cuomo tweaks new rules for absentee voting

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo has signed executive orders that he said will help ensure safe and secure voting in November’s elections.

Cuomo said the fall elections will be one of the most critical and controversial in modern history, and he’s already signed bills approved by the state Legislature that will allow the COVID-19 pandemic to be an authorized reason for voting by absentee ballot, among other things. 

Now, the governor is taking those measures a step further.

He said even though the new law essentially allows universal mail-in balloting, New Yorkers might still be confused about how to actually request the absentee voting forms. One of the executive orders will require all local Boards of Election to send letters to all eligible voters, explaining how to request the ballots and clearly outlining the deadlines for when they have to be mailed backed or deposited in person to a Board of Elections office or polling site.  

“There are two steps to it,” Cuomo said. 

He said the ballots must be redesigned to make it easier for voters to see where they have to sign the ballots. The current format requires two signatures, one on the ballot itself and one on the mailing envelope. Ballots can be disqualified if one of those is missing. 

Two other executive orders require Boards of Elections to be fully staffed and to begin counting absentee ballots 48 hours after the polls close. 

The governor said he also wants to hear from the boards now if they are having trouble with finding enough workers. 

“You have to be able to tabulate the vote,” Cuomo said.  “We don’t want to hear after-the-fact excuses.” 

A fifth executive order would allow New York’s voters to cite the pandemic as a reason to vote absentee in village and town elections.

Karen DeWitt is Capitol Bureau Chief for New York State Public Radio, a network of 10 public radio stations in New York State. WBFO listeners are accustomed to hearing DeWitt’s insightful coverage throughout the day, including expanded reports on Morning Edition.
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