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Want to vote by mail in New York? You’ll need to request a ballot

Last week, we informed you that all New Yorkers will vote by mail in the June primaries. This is no longer true – if you want to vote by mail, you will have to request a ballot.

The Governor’s push for mail-voting in June was opposed by Republicans as well as civic groups such as Common Cause for being unconstitutional and potentially disenfranchising voters, given the labor that would be required to make the switch. Following the outcry, the Governor decided that every New Yorker will be sent an application for an absentee ballot, rather than just a ballot.

New York’s strict voting laws require that voters offer one out of only a few predefined excuses on their absentee ballot application in order to receive a ballot, but Cuomo issued another executive order earlier this month allowing any voter to mark “temporary illness or physical disability” as their excuse to receive a ballot on account of Covid-19.

New York is part of a growing number of states that are expanding access to vote-by-mail in response to the Covid-19 pandemic. RepresentUs is trackingthe progress of vote by mail in each state and providing resources to help voters access mail-in ballots. And we’re currently calling on the “stalling seven” states that haven’t expanded vote-by-mail in response to Covid-19.

The recent flurry of positive coronavirus tests among those that worked on or participated in the recent Wisconsin primary election makes clear that vote-by-mail is a critical, common-sense strategy to keep voters safe while keeping our democracy running. If you’d like to get involved with our efforts to make sure every state allows vote-by-mail during the crisis, you can sign up by entering your e-mail here (about halfway down the page).         

In other news…

  • Many New Yorkers that receive an absentee ballot (or decide to vote in-person) will notice that a certain marquee race won’t be included. The New York State Board of Elections recently decided to call off the state Democratic presidential primary, reports the Times Union. This essentially gives Joe Biden all of New York’s delegates at the Democratic National Convention, though Jay Jacobs, chair of the state Democratic party, stated that Bernie Sanders may be allotted some courtesy delegates. Election officials attribute the decision to a desire to protect against the spread of Covid-19, estimating that holding only contested primaries would reduce voter turnout by 70% percent, and also cut the need for poll workers that are typically older and more vulnerable to the virus. This decision has led to a backlash from other candidates and their supporters, especially the Bernie Sanders campaign, which was hoping to amass enough delegates to influence the platform at the Democratic National convention. One candidate, Andrew Yang, has responded by suing the Board of Elections to reverse the decision.      
  • While Covid-19 has turned the world upside-down in countless ways, many traditions have persevered. This includes the time-honored tradition of politicos knocking candidates off the New York ballot on technicalities. Each year, the Board of Elections holds hearings to determine which candidates will be allowed on the ballot. Politicians or those associated with them often use these hearings as an opportunity to knock a challenger off the ballot for failing to comply with a variety of requirements, including issues as small as leaving a piece of information off a cover sheet. These hearings are usually held in person, where candidates, challengers, or their attorneys can make their cases to the Board to avoid being removed from the ballot. This year, however, all hearings were conducted by Zoom.         

Upcoming events and actions:

  • Did you know that NYC has had an online voter registration portal ready to go for nearly a year, but the portal can’t be launched because of an obscure state law? Did you know that voter registration rates have also plummeted due to the COVID-19 crisis, which may leave hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers unable to vote in June and November? RepresentUs NYC is starting a campaign to change the state law to allow for online voter registration in NYC. If you’re interested in becoming involved, please reach out to Tom at
  • The next Represent Albany e-meeting will be on Wednesday, May 6th. If you’d like to attend, please contact Andrew at

Thank you for reading! If you’re interested in getting involved locally:

RepUs NYC: WebsiteTwitterfacebook
Represent Albany: WebsiteTwitterfacebook

Please write with any comments, tips, or suggestions.


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