New York may make expanded mail-in voting permanent, speed up ballot counting process

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ALBANY (WCBS 880) — New York State is looking to permanently expand mail-in voting while also trying to speed up the process for counting absentee ballots.

A proposed constitutional amendment would do away with a New York State rule mandating that absentee ballots can only be given to people who are ill, have a physical disability or will be out-of-town on Election Day.

During the 2020 election, Gov. Andrew Cuomo passed an executive order allowing the ballots to be given to anyone who feared catching coronavirus on Election Day.

Voting right advocates say the change increased participating in the election exponentially.

“Having the different ways to vote makes it more likely that people will exercise their right,” says Jarret Berg, with the group Vote Early New York.

He says they are working “to ensure that all New Yorkers who are interested in voting remotely with an absentee are able to do so.”

The group is working to make the 2020 change permanent, and is thrilled the Legislature seems to be on the same page.

The proposed amendment already cleared one round of legislative approval in 2019.

Senate Elections Committee Chairman Zellnor Myrie has also said he is optimistic it will pass a second round in January, which would clear the way for the amendment to be put before voters in a referendum as soon as fall 2021.

Advocates say common reasons given against mail-in voting, including potential fraud and additional cost, are just not true.

New York would start tallying absentee ballots on Election Day under legislation sponsored by Senate Deputy Majority Leader Michael Gianaris, a Queens Democrat.

(© 2020 WCBS 880. The Associated Press contributed to this report.)