Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver and Elections Committee Chair Joan Millman said today that Governor David A. Paterson has signed legislation (A.10681-B/Silver) to increase the opportunity for military and special federal voters to vote and have all their votes counted.
"With this legislation, we take another important step in continuing the Assembly Majority's efforts to reform the election process in New York State," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "Making it easier for our military and other overseas ballots to be counted will ensure that all New Yorkers can exercise their democratic rights, regardless of where they are stationed around the world."
"This bill will increase the number of ballots counted and allow many more voices to be heard," said Millman (D-Brooklyn). "By simplifying the process and making the best use of technology we can ensure our goal of allowing more New Yorkers the ability to participate in the State's elections process."
This legislation addresses the growing concern nationwide about military and special federal voters' ability to cast a paper ballot that will arrive in a timely manner and be counted. Currently in New York, military voters are sent "military ballots" that are identical to the generic absentee ballot and allow military voters to vote in all federal, state and local races. Special federal voters in New York are American citizen overseas voters that once lived in United States but no longer do. These voters are sent a different ballot because they can only vote in federal races and not state and local elections.
In 2009, the Assembly passed a bill making the deadline for receipt of military and special federal ballots 13 days after a general or special election and seven days after a primary. This would allow New York military and special federal ballots a total of 45 days to make "round trip" from the board of elections to the voter and back to the board of elections.
This bill, together with last year's law, will allow military and special federal voters the ability to choose a preferred method of communication when obtaining voting materials, including fax and email, to greatly reduce the round trip time, promote the timely receipt of ballots and increase participation of military and overseas voters from New York State.