All New Yorkers will be able to vote by absentee ballot for the June 23 primaries, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Wednesday.
“I’ve seen lines of people on television voting in other states,” Cuomo said during a Wednesday news conference at the Capitol. “This is totally nonsensical. God bless them for having such diligence for their civic duty that they would go stand on a line to vote, but people shouldn’t have to make that choice.”
The announcement is the state’s latest move to mitigate interactions during what would typically be a busy election cycle, as the coronavirus pandemic has shut down large gatherings statewide. As advocates and lawmakers noted the potential risk linked to a busy polling spot, Cuomo pushed back the state’s April 28 presidential primary – and special elections scheduled for the same day – to June 23, the same day as New York’s statewide and congressional primaries.
His office had been researching for weeks whether the governor had the authority to expand absentee voting by executive order. The state constitution currently only allows for absentee ballots if a voter is away from their county of residence, or if they have an illness or physical disability.
Cuomo plans to issue an order expanding the illness provision to include the “risk of contracting COVID-19,” Secretary to the Governor Melissa DeRosa said. Absentee voting won’t be mandatory, just an option, she added.
“I think we’re going to take a wait-and-see approach as we get closer on whether or not any poll should be open,” DeRosa said.