Amid the concerns of COVID-19, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, D-Bronx, proposed new legislation to move the presidential primary from April 28 to June 23, make the ballot simpler and temporarily authorize absentee voting for those affected by the COVID-19 outbreak.
Under Dinowitz’s bill, simplifying the ballot would remove all candidates and delegates who chose to no longer participate in the campaign. This will ensure that voters can only vote for the two candidates that have not suspended their campaign. Dinowitz calls for this to avoid “voter confusion.”
Those with an imminent threat or worry resulting from COVID-19 would be eligible for an absentee ballot until July 1, 2020. The legislation would add a new paragraph to the section of Election Law to elaborate on who gets an absentee ballot.
The eligibility would be for “Any voter who is unable or averse to appear personally at the polling place of the election district in which he or she is a qualified voter because of an imminent, impending or urgent threat resulting from a disease outbreak, including, but not limited to, the coronavirus disease 2019 (COVID-19).”
Currently, voters who participate in presidential and other party elections, including, but not limited to: Congress, State Senate and State Assembly, will have to go to their polling places in order to cast their ballot despite the national pandemic.
The mandated restrictions on public gatherings [virtually or have less than 10 people], worries voters. Elections will become strikingly more challenging if gatherings over 10 are prohibited through April.
“The 2020 presidential election is the most significant in our lifetimes, maybe even in American history, and no New Yorker should be disenfranchised from casting their ballot out of fear for their health or confusion about how the process works,” Dinowitz said. “We have already taken steps towards no-excuse absentee voting, but this is an important stopgap while we work through the constitutional amendment process. It is imperative for us to pass this legislation as quickly as possible so that our democratic processes can continue in full force amidst this pandemic.”
The bill is being circulated among fellow Assembly members and currently awaits sponsors in the state Senate.