OSWEGO — Anticipating a wave of mail-in voting this fall, New York will now give voters a chance to correct missing signatures and other clerical errors so their absentee ballots can be counted — but the exact provisions haven't yet been made public after last-minute talks between Gov. Andrew Cuomo and lawmakers.
Cuomo said last week he would sign — yet temporarily tweak — legislation that calls for notifying voters about such problems and provides for fixing them. Under the version passed by last month, the voter would have seven business days to file a form to fix the problem after a notice was mailed, in many situations.
All New York voters who requested an absentee ballot but have not yet received one can breathe easy, local election officials said: ballots have not yet been finalized, let alone mailed.
“There has to be time for everyone to get their crack at the legal process,” said Oswego County Board of Elections Commissioner Laura Brazak.
State officials will not finalize ballots for districts that cross county lines until Sept. 9, according to Brazak, with local races, administered by county boards, certified on Sept. 10.
The Board of Elections has been fielding multiple questions, Brazak said, regarding ballot drop boxes. Currently, no such drop boxes exist in Oswego County and the Board of Elections does not have plans to implement a drop box option for casting ballots.
“The ballot must, at all times, be under the care, custody and control of the Board of Elections,” Brazak said. “At this point in time, we have no intention of putting out ballot drop boxes.”
Voters can drop off ballots at any poll site on Election Day or any time during business hours at the Board of Elections office in the city of Oswego, Brazak said.
Cuomo, a Democrat, said he agreed voters should be able to correct inadvertent mistakes that would otherwise invalidate their mail-in votes. But he said the Legislature's plan came too close to the Nov. 3 presidential election, requiring a series of notifications and mailings that would overtax election officials.
"New York must balance the right to vote with the need to ensure a timely, seamless and operationally sound election that leaves no doubt as to its outcome," he wrote in a memo.
Cuomo said he and lawmakers had agreed on "temporary modifications" that would give voters an opportunity to correct slip-ups "without relying so heavily on an already burdened mail system."
The original legislation will take effect after November, Cuomo's memo said.
His memo didn't give further details on the temporary changes, saying they'd be made in an executive order and possibly in further legislation.
The sponsor of the original legislation, Sen. Zellnor Myrie, didn't immediately provide further information on the temporary changes. But Myrie said he was pleased that voters would get some opportunity to correct minor mistakes that have disqualified many ballots in the past.
"By enacting these changes, we are ensuring the law stands firmly on the side of voters exercising their rights," the Brooklyn Democrat said in a statement.
The fast-moving developments came after Cuomo on Thursday signed legislation that eases mail-in voting by allowing voters to cite the coronavirus pandemic as a reason for seeking an absentee ballot this year. The governor and state Legislature have been on a streak of voting-related legislation, including a package of bills in 2019 aimed at what Democrats say was reducing barriers to voting.