Governor Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order Saturday moving the presidential primary from April 28th to June 23rd, in the wake of health concerns from the ongoing Coronavirus pandemic. The move aligns the voting for presidential nominees to the same date voters would be choosing congressional and legislature nominees in the various parties.
“I don't think it's wise to be bringing a lot of people to one location to vote,” said Cuomo at his daily COVID 19 public briefing. “A lot of people touching one doorknob, a lot of people touching one pen, whatever you call the new device on the ballots, so we are going to delay that and link it to an election that was previously scheduled on June 23rd. The June 23rd is for state legislative races and Congressional races. We'll move the presidential election to that date.
The June date, if it holds, would presumably also host special elections in five state legislature districts, including the race for 50th State Senate to fill the seat vacated by Bob Antonacci.
Onondaga County election commissioners came out in favor of pushing back the primary and special elections. There were calls to broaden absentee ballot voting if the primary were kept at its original April date.
Common Cause/NY Executive Director Susan Lerner applauded the move.
"Consolidating the presidential primary to June 23rd is the right move to protect voters' health and free up much needed funding for more immediate public health needs. We applaud Governor Cuomo for taking this step. Next, New York lawmakers must expand absentee voting to ensure all voters can exercise their right to vote -- no matter the situation," Lerner said in a release.
Common Cause suggests Boards of Elections immediately inform voters of the move in primary date to June 23rd, amid other suggestions to ensure voter safety, voting accuracy, and encourage participation.
Common Cause/NY's recommendations for how to proceed with an election during COVD-19:
- The April 28th presidential primary, and all other elections scheduled for that date, should be consolidated to the June 23rd primary given the escalating spread of the virus around the state. This will give local boards of elections much needed time to adjust their plans for early voting and election day.
- A uniform and measured expansion of the requirements to vote absentee extending the provisions of the Governor's Executive Order to make it easier for voters to request a ballot.
- The process of requesting an absentee ballot requires voters to provide a mailing address where the ballot should be sent. This would dramatically increase the likelihood of a voter receiving their requested ballot. This would also provide BOEs an opportunity to update their voter file with the correct address.
- Local boards of elections must immediately prepare to scale up for the expansion of absentee voting, which means:
- developing a more robust ballot tracking process.
- providing pre-paid postage for return envelopes.
- designating an abundance of secure drop box locations that aren't just USPS mailboxes.
- The state must allocate additional funds to deal with additional costs associated with printing, instituting new infrastructure, voter outreach and education, equipment maintenance, translation services, and staff training.
- Maintain accomodations for in-person early voting and election day voting. For some voters, absentee voting is not feasible. This is particularly true for disabled voters who require the use of ballot marking devices such as those who are vision impaired, or have a disability or condition that would make it difficult or impossible to mark a ballot by hand as well as those who need access to translation services. Even '100% vote by mail states' like Washington still have in-person voting as an option during early voting and on election day.
- Any in-person voting must be conducted in such a manner that voters, poll workers, and election administrators are kept safe and healthy by following the most recent CDC sanitary and mass gathering protocols. We recognize there may come a point when in-person voting must be significantly modified due to COVID-19.