Lawmakers hold hearing on COVID impact on June Primary

NY Capitol News

ALBANY, N.Y. (NEWS10) — New York State lawmakers are reviewing the impact that COVID-19 had on the June Primary.

All races from the June Primary have been called, but the process took more time this year due to the large number of more than 1.2 million absentee ballots statewide.

“That was a huge, astronomical number. Something we’ve never seen before in our primary election, so it took some boards quite a while to process all the absentees that they had,” said NYS Board of Elections Director of Public Information John Conklin in an interview last week.

At Tuesday’s hearing to review the election, Senator Zellnor Myrie said, while many people took advantage of early voting, in-person voting and absentee voting, there were some issues. 

“Too many New Yorkers saw their democracy fail them during this pandemic. Thousands of absentee ballots were discarded. Many people had bad experiences at their polling sites,” Myrie said. 

Some absentee ballots were not filled out correctly. There was also a post office error where some absentee ballots primarily downstate didn’t receive a cancellation mark. 

“That is one of the elements that’s required for an absentee ballot to be valid. If you mail it and it arrives at your local board after election day, then it has to have a cancellation mark on it that proves it was mailed either on or before election day,” Conklin said.

The postmark issue is still being litigated. Meanwhile, lawmakers and officials are looking for solutions to prepare for the anticipated 8 million voters in the general election. 

“We need to resolve the inconsistencies in the election law. The seven-day postmark on an absentee application, it’s not workable in a pandemic, it’s not workable anytime,” said NYS Board of Elections Co-Executive Director Robert Brehm.  

Brehm also said there needs to be a bigger message out to voters to not wait to get an application, mail ballots in early, and take advantage of early voting.

There’s also legislation being discussed to allow for secure ballot drop boxes as another option for people to turn in an absentee ballot.

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