Common Cause/NY Calls to Consolidate April Primaries on June 23rd in light of COVID-19
- Susan Lerner
Common Cause/NY applauds the Governor for reducing the number of nominating signatures necessary to appear on the primary ballot for June. We now urge the Governor and lawmakers to consolidate the presidential primary and other relevant special elections with the June 23rd legislative and congressional primary. Generally we believe that elections should not be postponed, however, the current circumstances require extraordinary measures. Consolidating the primaries is a prudent public health measure that does not undermine our democracy, and frees up much needed funding for more immediate public health needs. We can and will preserve our elections by taking an additional host of safety precautions outlined below, including expanding absentee voting. New Yorkers need not sacrifice our safety for the right to vote. We can work together to do both.
Common Cause/NY urges Governor Cuomo and the Legislature to take the following emergency measures to protect public health during the upcoming 2020 election cycle:
- Save lives and money by consolidating the April 28th presidential primary and all relevant special elections with the legislative and congressional primaries on June 23rd, 2020.
- Require counties to maintain occupancy limits at polling places so that no more than 50 people are in a poll site at a given time until the CDC revises their mass gathering guidance.
- Apply the suspension and interpretation of Election Law 8-400 contained in Executive Order 202.2 (1), which allows the prevalence of COVID-19 to be a valid basis for requesting an absentee ballot to the June primary election. New York City has already done this.
- Extend the provisions of Executive Order 202.2 (2) to allow voters to request an absentee ballot via email or fax. Currently, voters may request an application for an absentee ballot via mail, which then must be mailed to them. Eliminate this two-step process, and allow voters to directly request absentee ballot information electronically.
- Extend the provisions of Executive Order 202.2 (2) to extend the deadlines for request and return of the absentee ballots to the concomitant dates for the Junel primary (extend request deadline to June 22 and return deadline to postmark or in person return no later than June 23).
- Require county Boards of Elections to provide prepaid postage return envelopes with all absentee ballots provided or sent out for the June 23rd primary elections.
- Allow New York City voters to register to vote online in order to minimize the need for paper registration forms, a potential source of infection. This can be done either through immediate passage and signing into law of A8473(Blake)/S6463(Myrie) or through Executive Order.
- Provide immediate funding through the New York State budget for county boards of elections to take COVID-19 emergency measures, including the cost of prepaid postage return envelopes for absentee ballots, increased costs associated with expanded use of absentee ballots and cleaning and other preventative measures.
We further call on the New York State Board of Elections to issue enforceable directives to the county Boards of Elections requiring them to:
- Institute cleaning and preventive measures at polling places during early voting and election date, including, without limitation:
- Impose physical distancing measures so that voters are not crowded together and maintain appropriate distances from each other and poll workers.
- Place optical scanners, check-in tables and privacy booths at least 6 feet apart;
- Provide antiviral wipes to voters to clean their hands before and after voting;
- Require election inspectors to wear disposable gloves to limit skin contact and to be changed frequently, using antiviral wipes or gel upon removal of a pair of gloves;
- Wipe down voting equipment, all table surfaces and any door knobs or other surfaces used to enter and exit the polling place a minimum of hourly with antiviral wipes;
- Use glue sticks to seal Affidavit Ballot Envelopes;
- Use tempered glass screen protectors for the electronic poll books that can be cleaned more effectively; and
- Provide voters who use a touchscreen ballot marking device with cotton swabs to use in touching the screen.
- Prohibit county boards of elections from reducing the number of early voting sites, encouraging them to go beyond the statutory minimum required, as early voting is an effective tool to minimize poll site crowding on election day.