ERIE COUNTY, N.Y. (WKBW) — Governor Andrew Cuomo announced Thursday “sweeping election reforms” less than 80 days before the November election. The three-part legislative package changes how New Yorkers will vote by absentee ballot:
- Eligible voters with COVID-19 concerns can now vote by absentee.
- Absentee ballot applications can be submitted immediately.
- Postmarked absentee ballots prior to or on Election Day will be counted. Any absentee ballot will also be counted on the day after the election without a postmark.
At the Erie County Board of Elections, the reforms help bring some clarity to the plan for November.
“We’re working hard to plan for November every day,” said Erie County Democratic Commissioner Jeremy Zellner. He continued, “We are daily watching and waiting from Albany and talking to our counterparts across the state to do everything we can to be prepared.”
Erie County Republican Elections Commissioner Ralph Mohr added: “Many of the items that the governor had signed into law today were items that we had in place or planned to have in place for the general election.”
Mohr noted Erie County was the first in the state to allow COVID as a reason for absentee voting during the June 23rd primary and New York 27 special election.
“In a general (election), we would get 26,000 total absentee ballots in a presidential election. In the primary election this last year, we had over 120,000 individuals making requests,” said Mohr.
7 Eyewitness News Reporter Nikki DeMentri asked Commissioner Zellner: "Do you feel more people will vote absentee than you’ve ever seen before?”
Zellner responded: “It could be. What I’m hoping is they (Erie County voters) take advantage of early voting…but we’re expecting a massive amount of absentees.”
New Yorkers have until October 9, 2020 to register to vote and both Zellner and Mohr suggest doing so early. While Erie County voters can request to vote absentee by phone, a new online portal will go live on the Board of Elections website by the end of next week. Through this portal, Zellner said, voters can apply to vote absentee “in less than a minute.”
The actual absentee ballot will not come in the mail until after September 10th because that is when the state will certify the ballot.
“We produce all of our ballots in house. We will begin to start as soon as we receive that certification,” Mohr said.
For Erie County residents that vote absentee come November, both commissioners encourage voters to return the ballot as early as possible. Voters can return absentee ballots to the Erie County Board of Elections several ways:
- Mailing it to the Erie County Board of Elections Office at 134 West Eagle Street, Buffalo, NY 14202
- Returning it to the Erie County Board of Elections Office at 134 West Eagle Street, Buffalo, NY 14202
- Returning it to any of the 37 polling places during the 9 days of early voting
- Returning it to any polling location on Election Day (November 3, 2020)
“We really made it that it’s accessible to anybody,” said Zellner.
DeMentri asked Commissioner Mohr: “Are you prepared for November and the possibility of what may come November 3rd?”
Mohr responded: “We are. This is not our first rodeo.”