Local elections officials gear up for absentee ballot flood

Governor signs legislation to expand absentee voting due to coronavirus

WATERTOWN, N.Y. (WWNY) - More New Yorkers can now request absentee ballots.

That’s after Governor Cuomo signed election reforms which he says will make it easier for people to vote and be counted in November’s election.

“We want people thinking about the elections now, " Jefferson County Republican elections commissioner Jude Seymour said.

Seymour said the laws now allow any New York voter to request an absentee ballot for reason of fear -- or risk of catching -- or spreading illnesses like COVID-19. "Essentially, I don't want to risk getting sick at the polls."

The new laws also allow voters to request an absentee ballot right away and it now can be postmarked on Election Day. North country elections officials are getting ready for what could be a massive number of requests.

“I do see that increasing the number of absentee ballots that we will deal with, but I do also find it a good decision because it makes people feel more comfortable,” said Jennie Bacon, who’s St. Lawrence County’s Democratic elections commissioner. “If people are more comfortable voting, they’re more likely to vote.”

“We’ve already had 16-hundred requests,” Seymour. “Now that’s not a ton because there’s 55,000 registered voters. Let’s say we get vide times as many. Are we going to be ready for that volume? Yes, we have to meet that challenge.”

But the biggest challenges are time and mail, now that American postal workers unions say mail has slowed down. They blame the federal government.

“We’re not going to be a reason that there’s a lag,” Seymour said. “We’ve committed ourselves to that. What the postal service does, I can’t control it.”

If you want an absentee ballot – and get one – Seymour says send it as soon as possible, or no later than 15 days before the election.

“Don’t wait until those deadlines,” Bacon said.

If you have any questions about the absentee voting process, you can call your local Board of Elections.

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