( release ) Governor Andrew M. Cuomo today signed into law a measure giving county boards of elections additional time prior to special elections for military ballots to be mailed overseas to allow such voters to cast their ballots. The governor also announced a special election will be held on May 24 to fill the vacancy in New York's 26th Congressional District.
Until now, special elections were held between 30 and 40 days from their announcement. Governor Cuomo's measure increases that time to between 70 and 80 days so that members of the military serving overseas have sufficient time to receive and cast their votes. The new law rectifies the discrepancy between New York State and federal laws with respect to the timing of transmitting such ballots before a special election.
"This law makes sure that all New Yorkers – including those serving in the military – have their votes counted," Governor Cuomo said. "Our electoral process only functions properly when all citizens have the chance to participate. I thank the legislature for quickly and unanimously passing this measure so that I could sign it into law and call a special election to ensure fair representation in the 26th Congressional District."
Governor Cuomo's bill recognized that provisions in the Public Officers Law and Election Law did not provide sufficient time for the State and county boards of elections to finalize and transmit to military voters overseas the final ballot within 45 days of a special election, as required by federal law. This bill remedies that problem by providing additional time for election officials to finalize and transmit military ballots and requiring that such transmission occur earlier than previously required.
Senator Thomas O'Mara, Chair of the Senate's Committee on Elections and sponsor of the Governor's bill, said, "I appreciate Governor Cuomo's leadership on this new law. It's a responsible measure that increases the fairness and accountability of our electoral process, and it's a tribute to New York's soldiers serving abroad in defense of our democracy and freedoms. I'm proud that we've acted quickly to strengthen the opportunity for these servicemen and servicewomen to have their voices heard and votes counted in our special elections."
Senator Joseph P. Addabbo, Jr., Ranking Member of the Senate's Committee on Elections, said, "Governor Cuomo and both of my Senate committees (Elections and Veterans, Homeland Security & Military Affairs) have made common-sense reforms a priority in an effort to count every eligible vote in special elections. This measure will make it easier for more individuals, especially our military personnel serving our country overseas, to cast a vote and have their voices heard in the most fundamental democratic process."
Assemblywoman Joan Millman, Chair of the Assembly's Committee on Election Law, said "I was proud to sponsor this important measure in the Assembly. This new law will ensure that every ballot is counted in special elections, most notably those cast by the brave New Yorkers serving in the military. These members of the Armed Services sacrifice so much for us and we can't allow our citizens to become disenfranchised during their military service."
Assemblyman Kevin Smardz, Ranking Member of the Assembly's Committee on Election Law, said, "I for one am grateful for the many brave men and women in the armed services who preserve our democracy and it is only right that we ensure that they have ample time to vote and have their ballots counted. I have happy to join Governor Cuomo and my legislative colleagues in protecting the right to vote for these proud military men and women- a freedom they fight to defend on a daily basis."
Major General Patrick Murphy, the Adjutant General of New York, said, "Our men and women in uniform deployed away from their homes value their right to participate in any election. On behalf of the members of the armed forces I thank Governor Cuomo and the Legislature, for his effort to ensure that New York's absent or deployed service members are part of the state's special election process."