Assemblywoman Galef’s Absentee Voting Bills Triumph in Assembly

Legislation simplifies and eases the absentee voting process
June 18, 2009

Assemblywoman Sandy Galef announced that two of her election law bills passed the Assembly earlier this week. One bill (A.7347) broadens the methods and provides additional time within which voters may request an absentee ballot. The other bill (A.5276A) simplifies the absentee ballot application process by removing onerous and invasive questions from the application form.

“It is critical to our democratic process that we have laws which make voting by absentee ballot easier for those who have a legitimate incapacity to vote in person,” said Galef. “The strength of a democracy is determined by the level of participation of its citizens. New York’s voting turnout is on average less than 60%, and it is our responsibility as lawmakers to ensure that all citizens are afforded the means to vote, including by absentee ballot.”

Galef believes that voting methods must adapt to today’s technology and expedite the voting process. Her new legislation accomplishes both goals. First, A.7347 will permit voters to request absentee ballots by fax or e-mail in addition to regular mail through the United States Postal Service. Second, A.5276-A will streamline the absentee ballot application process by removing many of the questions asked of the voter. For example, under current law, voters must specify reasons for absences such as the details of their medical conditions. Voters are also required to make available the dates of their absences, which many voters feel uncomfortable providing. Many eligible voters are uneasy releasing such confidential information so they simply don’t vote.

The New York State League of Women Voters (League) supported both pieces of legislation stating that: “providing the additional time and means to apply for an absentee ballot will increase opportunities to exercise the voting franchise.” Aimee Allaud, Elections Specialist for the League also stated that: "The League of Women Voters of New York State and the voters of New York applaud the efforts of Assemblywoman Galef and her Assembly colleagues for supporting this major improvement in the absentee balloting process which has been long overdue."

Adam Smith, Executive Director of The Vote by Mail Project, expressed support for A.5276-A by stating: “Current law includes stipulations which are grossly out of bounds and unnecessary to achieve fair election results. These needless stipulations are a threat to the voter’s privacy and pose a real risk to the safety of their property. Eliminating these baseless prerequisites for absentee voting will liberate the election process and promote turnout.”

“I believe that eliminating these burdensome prerequisites for absentee voting will promote a higher voter turnout. I am confident that we will witness higher voting turnout by making the process more voter friendly and taking into account new technologies and new realities,” concluded Galef.