WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - County elections commissioners across the state want to postpone April’s presidential primary and change the absentee balloting law due to the COVID-19 outbreak.
The New York State Elections Commissioners’ Association is calling for immediate action by the governor and state Legislature.
The group says election boards throughout the state are risking personnel safety and health to prepare for impending elections on April 28.
Officials say they're facing critical shortages of inspectors and polling places due to the ongoing public health crisis.
Over the next week, they say election boards will find it almost impossible to meet mission critical deadlines for testing machines and preparing ballots because of staff shortages due to the ongoing stay-at-home order.
The association says it's asking for legislative action or an executive order to do the following:
- Postponing the Democratic presidential primary scheduled for April 28 to June 23. Fielding inspectors in the midst of this health crisis is dangerous and may be impossible. Traditional polling places may be unusable as they are currently restricted or closed to the public. Postponing until June will not only give elections commissioners time to plan, but will ease the burdens on host counties budgets that are devastated by the COVID-19 crisis.
- Amend election law to allow for absentee balloting during all times of declared state of emergency due to infectious disease or pandemic. This will allow all voters who are at-risk but perhaps not yet sick to apply for and receive an absentee ballot. At risk or vulnerable citizens should not have to make decisions on whether to exercise their right to vote or risk their health.
- For all primary and special elections, give wide latitude to the local Board of Elections to consolidate polling places and election districts to best operate the election. Officials say it is quite likely they will have limited numbers of polling places and inspectors even then. They say need this flexibility to adjust to circumstances on the ground in their jurisdictions that may be changing right up until the June 23 election.
The association says acting on these items will buy it precious time and save host counties significant amount of resources while also preserving the rights of voters and safety and health of election workers.