During this upcoming election, it’s more important than ever that voters know how to ensure that their votes get counted. Fortunately, State Senator Liz Krueger (D-Upper East Side, Lenox Hill) is here to help.
Last Night, Liz Krueger, Executive Director of Common Cause New York Susan Lerner, and League of Women Voters New York City (LWVNYC) Voter Services Committee Co-Chair Susie Gomes and Voter Services Committee Volunteer/Co-Chair Laura Quigg joined together for a virtual town hall about how to make votes count in the upcoming election, quelling constituent concerns about voting during the time of COVID.
Krueger and guests spoke about changes to state elections laws since the Primary Election in June, changes to the way the NYC Board of Elections operates, and simpler ways to register to vote, apply for an absentee ballot, and track a ballot.
“I’m sure constituents remember the confusion around the June primary,” said Lerner. “A lot of that was due to the fact that changes had to be made very, very quickly. So some people were frustrated in the delays in getting their absentee ballots, others were frustrated in mailing them back and not being counted. A lot had to do with the short amount of time the Board of Elections (BOE) had to make a massive change.”
Before the pandemic, said Lerner, generally 3-5 percent voted absentee or by mail. Since then, changes have been made by the legislature to accommodate more mail-in volume, improve the voting process, and speed up the count.
“The basic reform that had to be passed was ensuring absentee ballots would be available in the general election,” said Lerner, about the expanded definition of illness, “and they went one step better and said absentee balloting will be available all the way through 2021.”
The legislature also reinforced the ballot system to fix the unusually high number of invalidated ballots that were received in June, said Lerner. For the first time in New York election law, there’s a procedure allowing you to “cure” a ballot’s defect if something like a signature is contested.
Lerner said postmarking issues arose when the USPS failed to postmark ballots that were sent out before the deadline. The legislature decided that if a ballot is received the day after election day without a postmark, it will still be counted.
Furthermore, the New York Board of Elections (BOE) and voters will now be able to track and confirm receipt of ballots via the website, said Lerner, and there will be dropboxes across the borough for absentee ballots.
The LWVNYC, a 100-year-old suffrage organization, also argued for the incredible importance of the census, voting, and being counted this year. Quigg added that voters can legally have a trusted source, like a family member or friend, hand deliver an absentee ballot to a site.
“There is no such thing as voting twice in New York State. If you vote using an absentee, that ballot isn’t counted until the in-person ballots, so it’s not possible to vote twice,” said Quigg.
The voter registration deadline is October 9, said Gomes. She reminded viewers about the LWVNYC established hotline and Turbo Vote, a new voter registration system set up through the Campaign Finance Board.
“We are very much pushing, as much as possible early voting,” said Gomes. “Absentee balloting has become so much more efficient and effective since June. So many things have been corrected in our system. But having said that, early voting is counted on election night, so your vote is in the system in the machines. They are stored up and counted on election night. Early voting is for nine days from October 24 to November 1.”
Krueger reminded listeners about the upcoming census deadline on September 30.
“You still have a chance to fill out your census forms if you haven’t done it yet, I just count emphasis on it enough,” said Krueger, who noted that her district is likely undercounted because many residents weren’t currently at home. “We need every single New York State resident to fill out the census, even if they’ve left the state for a while. If they’ve gone to a country home for a while. Fill it out as New York City if you are a resident, please, it’s actually urgent.”
During the Q&A portion of the town hall, U.S. Senator Chuck Schumer (NY-9th District) pledged to do all he can to secure the election.
“Our top priority is securing the election. Elections are the wellspring of America, and if the American people don’t believe the elections are on the level, it’s the beginning of the end of our democracy,” said Schumer. “Nothing is more fundamental.”
He called President Donald Trump (R) “pernicious” and “egomaniacal” for trying to cast doubt on the voting system. He spoke just as poorly of Postmaster General Louis DeJoy, who, by his account, cares little about the post office.
“Today, Senator Bernie Sanders (I-VT) and I sent a letter to create a special bipartisan committee, even number of Republicans and Democrats, to have hearings about how we can secure our elections, what the dangers are, and what we should do about them,” said Schumer. “We’re doing everything we can on the federal level to ensure that these elections are fairly conducted.”