Cuomo rolls out proposals to reform elections in New York

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Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced proposed changes to New York elections and ballots during his 2021 State of the State. (Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Gov. Andrew Cuomo introduced a proposal for election reform in New York last week after the general election saw a record number of votes and lengthy delays in counting them. 

The proposal, which was part of Cuomo’s 2021 State of the State address, would speed up vote counting and allow more time in the early voting stages. 

“While we have already made some progress in modernizing New York’s election system, there is much left to do and this historic package of election reforms will be critical in strengthening how elections are run and ensuring all New Yorkers are able to exercise this fundamental right,” Cuomo said.

According to early election figures, 1.4 million Long Islanders voted in November, surpassing the 1.33 million who cast ballots in 2016. Around 715,000 Nassau County residents voted, beating the previous record of 653,676 in the 2016 election, according to Nassau Democratic Elections Commissioner James Scheuerman.

More than 350,000 Nassau residents cast their ballots on Election Day, with others taking advantage of the county’s second year of early voting and use of absentee ballots due to the coronavirus pandemic. Scheuerman said 142,962 absentee ballots were cast in Nassau County in 2020, a figure that shattered the previous record of 48,000 in 2016. 

Cuomo said he will look to pass legislation that extends early voting hours from 6 p.m. to  9 p.m. on weekends and a minimum of three weekdays during the 10 days of early voting in an election.  Cuomo said he will also call on the Legislature to finalize a law for no-excuse absentee voting for all New Yorkers, legislation that was introduced in 2019.

Cuomo also said he will advocate for voters to have more time to request their absentee ballots.  Currently, state law does not allow registered voters to request an absentee ballot more than 30 days in advance of Election Day. The proposed legislation would allow voters to request absentee ballots 45 days in advance.

The counting of ballots was a contentious issue in this past election. While the national race in New York was all but solidified on election night, local races were not certified until nearly a month later.  Cuomo said legislation will be introduced that will require county boards of elections to process absentee ballots the day they are received and begin reporting those ballots on Election Day.

“Our election system, on which our democracy is built, has, and continues to be, under attack by those seeking to undermine the founding principles of our nation and we must not only protect it, but ensure it can be accessed by all,” Cuomo said.

“As our Democratic supermajority continues to reform the way elections are run, fixing our latest-in-the-nation vote counting status will go a long way towards restoring faith in election results,” Senate Deputy Leader Michael Gianaris (D-Queens) said. “I am proud to have authored this important legislation so we are never again still counting votes into the new year.”

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