Albany, NY – As New York approaches the expiration of a provision which currently allows eligible voters to apply for absentee ballots based on temporary illness if there is a risk of contracting or spreading a communicable disease, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is introducing a new bill to extend this option to New Yorkers through February 1, 2024. The current provision, which was also authored by Assemblyman Dinowitz, will expire on January 1, 2022.
The proposal to extend expanded absentee ballot eligibility is motivated by a stubborn COVID-19 pandemic that has still not been resolved after twenty months, as positive test results have hovered at several thousand new cases per day in New York State for the past three months. Hospitalization rates from COVID-19 have also hovered at levels approximately two or three times higher than when the first absentee ballot eligibility expansion was passed on July 22-23, 2021.
The original expansion of absentee ballot eligibility (Chapter 139 of 2020) was designed to expire at the same time as a constitutional amendment to permanently authorize no-excuse absentee voting would have taken effect. However, that ballot proposal appears to have been defeated in a statewide referendum, leaving voters who would prefer to cast their ballots from the safety of their own homes to weigh the importance of their health and their vote unless additional action is taken by the Legislature. The new bill from Assemblyman Dinowitz would grant voters an additional two years of absentee ballot expanded eligibility, during which time the Legislature and voters determine whether they want to try again on a constitutional amendment related to absentee voting.
Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz said: “The pandemic is still hospitalizing and killing New Yorkers on a daily basis. Although we are taking dramatic strides in our vaccination efforts, the reality is that a stubborn minority of our fellow New Yorkers are refusing to get vaccinated and perpetuating the risk of contracting COVID-19 regardless of vaccination status. My new legislation is a critical measure so that no New Yorker is forced to put their own health at risk simply to cast a ballot, and I urge my colleagues to support this important measure when we return to Albany in January.”