Village elections across New York are postponed until April 28 in an attempt to shield poll workers and voters from possible exposure to the coronavirus.
General village elections are normally held the third Tuesday in March, but were scheduled for March 18 this year.
Gov. Andrew Cuomo issued an executive order on Monday, March 16, delaying the elections to the same date as New York’s presidential primary, which is still on track for the end of April, despite four other states delaying their primary elections happening today and in the coming weeks.
“Public health officials have been clear that reducing density is one of the most effective ways to stop the spread,” Cuomo said. “And delaying village elections will help ensure poll workers and voters are not potentially exposed to the virus and at the same time maintain integrity in our election system.”
As the coronavirus continues to cause disruption to daily life, actions by local governments are particularly important to maintain a level of stability in New York communities.
Wade Beltramo is the General Counsel for the New York Conference of Mayors, which is an association representing local governments in New York. Safety is NYCOM’s biggest concern with holding village elections, as most election inspectors are older and are at a high risk of getting sick from the coronavirus.
Beltramo foresees the postponed election to come with its own set of challenges, such as the availability of voting machines, staffing election inspectors, and counting absentee ballots that were already received prior to postponement.
“Our members are taxed right now and I know that the state agencies are taxed right now,” Beltramo said. “I think everyone needs to be patient with each other because everyone is doing their best.”
With the presidential primaries also occurring on April 28, New Yorkers may be physically voting on different ballots and in different locations, in some cases.
“In some instances it could increase [voter] turnout and in others instances it might decrease turnout, because people might be focused on the presidential primary as opposed to the local election,” said Beltramo.
Cuomo has also ordered all local governments to reduce their workforce by at least 50 percent, by requiring non-essential employees to work from home. But critical services such as water, utility, police and fire departments are still being provided by local government, who are monitoring Cuomo’s orders and making adjustments on a daily basis.
“If you are upset at what we [the state] have done, be upset at me,” said Cuomo at a press conference this morning.” I made these decisions, it is not your local elected officials.”
As statewide positive cases rise to 950 as of Monday afternoon, preventative orders increase for New Yorkers.
As of 8 p.m. last night all casinos, gyms, and movie theaters are closed across the state including bars and restaurants with the exception of takeout.
“It’s one set of rules for the entire state,” said Cuomo,” and it should be one set of rules for the entire nation.”
Cuomo is urging New Yorkers to stay at home as much as possible during this outbreak and to practice social distancing in public spaces of at least 6-feet-apart from others.