Election uncertainty: what the new civil rights movement, absentee ballots and the coronavirus could mean for the general election

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FILE – In this Nov. 1, 2016, file photo, mail-in ballots for the 2016 General Election are shown at the elections ballot center at the Salt Lake County Government Center, in Salt Lake City. As President Donald Trump rails against voting by mail, many members of his own political party are embracing it to keep their voters safe during the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Rick Bowmer, File)

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10)- New York changed elections in the face of coronavirus. Officials allowed voters to cast absentee ballots in the primary election and moved the primary date to June 23. New York Public Interest Group Executive Director, Blair Horner, says in states where there is more broad access to absentee or vote by mail options; usually, the participation rates are higher.

Horner says New York’s actions could mean a much higher participation rate among eligible voters in the state. He says it will allow voters to register for an absentee ballot for the first time. Horner also says it’s difficult to predict what the absentee votes, combined with coronavirus pandemic and new Civil Rights Movement, might mean in terms of the general election.

With so many challenges in the upcoming general election and little history to pull from, Horner says it remains to be seen how or if they will affect each other. He says he anticipates a higher number of voters to participate as compared to what usually happens in the state during a presidential election.

There is evidence that supports making voting easier through a “no-excuse absentee” ballot system that would be attractive to New York voters. In 2018 the New York Senate released a report that looked at “no-excuse absentee” ballots, extended polling site hours, and early voting.

Nearly 80% out of 930 New York voters surveyed in the report said they would be more likely to vote if early voting was available, if the state implemented a “no-excuse absentee” system and if polling hours were extended to 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Horner says there are two proposals in New York that would ease voting restrictions. One would allow potential voters to register and vote on election day. The other would allow for absentee voting without having to provide an excuse, as is the current case.

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