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New York Legislators Seek to Install Absentee Ballot Drop Boxes Statewide

September 2, 2020 by Reece Nations

ALBANY, N.Y. – Elected officials rallied with voting rights advocates this week in support of New York state Sen. Brad Hoylman’s proposed bill that would authorize election boards to establish absentee ballot drop off locations statewide.

The Democratic legislator staged the event Monday, Aug. 31, on the steps of Farley Post Office building in Midtown Manhattan. Hoylman, flanked by his state Senate colleagues, was joined by New York City Councilmember Carlina Rivera, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and State Assembly member Richard Gottfried.

“New York won’t allow Donald Trump’s relentless attempts to undermine our elections and spread misinformation to succeed,” Hoylman said in a statement. “As his administration’s attacks on the USPS create postal delays across the country and New York grapples with historic numbers of absentee ballots, we need to ensure New Yorkers that their votes will be counted.”

Measures like Hoylman’s proposed legislation are some of the latest efforts by officials to safeguard election safety prior to November’s general presidential election. Presently, 34 states and the District of Columbia will implement ballot drop box locations, while several others await pending legislation, according to Lawfare.

Hoylman’s legislation, which is currently being held in the Senate Rules Committee, would add a new section to state election law authorizing each board of elections to institute absentee ballot drop off locations, according to the bill’s text. Notice of the drop off locations would be required to be provided via the board of elections’ website “no later than the day the absentee ballot drop-off [sic] location is established.”

Over 84,000 absentee ballots from the June Democratic primary election in New York City were invalidated, according to NBC News. Ballots were discarded for lacking an appropriate postmark or because of delayed arrivals, although the number of wrongfully disqualified ballots is currently the subject of a federal lawsuit.

“We owe it to all New Yorkers to make sure that their vote gets counted this November,” state Sen. Rachel May, co-sponsor of the Hoylman bill, said in a statement. “The continued threat of COVID-19 means that a record number of absentee ballots are expected this fall and yet we see the federal government actively dismantling the service on which these ballots rely: the United States Postal Service. One way we can promote safe, fast, and efficient voting, without worrying about postal issues, is to allow folks to drop their ballots off in secure drop boxes around their communities.”

Almost one in six votes nationwide in the 2016 presidential election were cast using drop boxes, a figure experts expect to sharply increase this election cycle, according to NPR. Drop off ballot boxes are becoming a popular alternative to voting-by-mail as recent cost-cutting measures by the Trump administration have hindered the United States Postal Service.

In Jan. 2019, New York Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a bill aimed at modernizing the state’s voting laws. The measures established by this legislation included allowing eight full days of early voting before an election, the consolidating of state and federal primary dates, preregistration for teenagers near voting age, and statewide voter registration transferability, according to the governor’s website.

“Our colleagues at the federal level must step in to save our beloved US Postal Service,” state Sen. Robert Jackson said in a statement. “But, in the meantime, we have to face the fact that the June primaries were a disaster of voter disenfranchisement.”

“We must create alternatives at the state level to ensure November’s election is fair and accessible for all,” Jackson’s statement continued. “I am proud to support this legislation of Senators Hoylman and May to create safe ballot drop boxes. It’s the smart, secure, and cost-effective solution we need right now.”

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