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Still waiting for your absentee ballot? You’re not alone!

If you haven’t yet received your absentee ballot for the June primary, don’t despair: Hundreds of thousands of New Yorkers share your pain.

As more states confront the challenge of holding primary elections during a pandemic, the nation is getting a firsthand look at the downsides of not having a robust vote-by-mail system in place. And New Yorkers are no exception, writes The City, because although the Board of Elections has sent absentee voting applications to every potential primary voter in the state, tens of thousands of city residents who have completed their applications are still waiting to receive a ballot.

Out of the roughly 243,000 absentee ballots requested by New York City residents through May, only 133,000 had been mailed out by the end of the month. The situation is particularly bad in Brooklyn, where less than a third of applicants have received their ballots, and Queens, where just 40% of absentee ballot requests have been fulfilled. 

While local elections boards attempt to catch up, the wait has become nerve-racking for New Yorkers, many of whom have not voted by mail in the past and may worry that the delays will prevent them from doing so during this election. Unfortunately, their fears are not unfounded. Although absentee ballot applicants have until June 16 (today!) to submit their requests, at least one spokesperson for the state Board of Elections has said that ballots mailed out in the middle of the deadline week are “unlikely or impossible to reach the voter in time.” Thanks to a deadline extension, those who have received absentee ballots now have until June 23 to postmark them. But without absentee ballots in hand, many New Yorkers could face a tough choice between participating in democracy or staying healthy. 

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The Joint Commission on Public Ethics (JCOPE) is back in the spotlightafter its struggle to find a suitable “independent” executive director has reignited concerns that the commission is not free from the governor’s grip. According to The Times Union, six members of JCOPE have penned a letter to the panel’s chairman, Michael K. Rozen, asking him to consider a candidate without ties to the governor’s office. Monica Stamm, one of the candidates on the shortlist for the position, previously served as Cuomo’s office deputy bureau chief when he was the state attorney general and, according to the six signers, poses a threat to the credibility of JCOPE. “Impressive credentials aside, the appearance of any possibility of any continuing political allegiances runs contrary to JCOPE’s mission and hampers its capacity to inspire public trust,” reads the letter.

Showcasing the divide among the commission’s 12 members (half of which are Cuomo appointees, including Rozen) is the fact that the six signers are all legislative appointees, while the six members who did not sign are Cuomo appointees. As it stands, Stamm does not currently have enough votes to be appointed, which means the position will remain vacant, as it has been for the past year.

Unfortunately, it’s not clear that a truly independent executive director would be enough to save JCOPE’s public image. In case you need a reminder, that’s because JCOPE found itself in hot water late last year when commission member votes were allegedly leaked to the governor’s office during a vote to determine whether or not to investigate one of Cuomo’s former aides. An investigation into the leak by the Cuomo-appointed Inspector General found no evidence of wrongdoing despite the fact that investigators did not interview key players, including Cuomo and Assembly Speaker Carl Heastie. The episode reinforced the notion that JCOPE was not only incapable of doing its job, but that the very process of ethics enforcement in New York had been compromised.

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Police secrecy law 50-a was repealed last week. While that will go a long way toward improving police transparency, 50-a repeal is not the final fight in the battle for police reform, according to City and State. Police departments could make the process of obtaining police records a difficult one. Agencies can use a variety of loopholes to drastically extend deadlines for the release of disciplinary records, and can even go as far as denying records requests, which can turn the task of obtaining records into a yearslong legal battle. All of this goes to show that the fight to reform the nation’s largest police force will likely take more time and effort than a simple repeal makes it seem. 

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Early voting has officially begun in New York, and if you’re looking to make your voice heard before the June 23 primaries, be sure to look up your earlyvoting location here as it may differ from your official Election Day location.

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Who on your ballot has pledged to #FixNYDemocracy? Check out our website for our growing list of candidates – 25 and counting(!) – who have pledged to fix our broken elections, get big money out of NY politics, and hold officials accountable for corruption.

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

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Please write repusnyc@gmail.com with any comments, tips, or suggestions.

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The Take

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