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New York allows voters to get absentee ballots amid virus concerns

ALBANY, N.Y. (AP) — New York will allow voters to request absentee ballots for the general election because of coronavirus under a new state law signed Thursday.

Lawmakers passed the bill last month, and voting rights groups have been calling on Gov. Andrew Cuomo to sign the legislation for weeks.

Voters were allowed to vote by absentee ballots in the June primary because of virus concerns. The Democratic-led Legislature passed a bill in late July to extend that option to November because of the pandemic and mailing delays that plagued the June primary.

New York typically only allows voters to request absentee ballots if they fall into one of several categories, including absence from one’s county on Election Day.

Voters in New York can start requesting absentee ballots immediately under another bill Cuomo signed.

Election officials are expecting of an even bigger flood of mail-in votes in November than the June primary, which delayed results for six weeks.

Election officers worked through the pandemic to process 1.8 million requests for absentee ballots in a primary that saw nearly 40% of votes cast by absentee votes — a monumental sum in a state whose long-restrictive absentee voting system involves fewer than 1-in-10 voters in typical elections.

Other voting-related legislation, including a bill to pass an automatic electronic system of voter registration, is still under review, according to Cuomo’s office.

As of early Thursday afternoon, Cuomo had not signed a bill to notify voters of issues with their absentee ballots — such as the lack of signature — and allow voters to fix them. Some state election officials who are calling for additional funding and time to process ballots this November from lawmakers, along with patience from voters, have warned the measure will fuel more delays.

It’s unclear how the state and Postal Service will fix several issues with mail-in voting ahead of the November election.

Earlier this year, Cuomo announced the state would mail applications for absentee ballots with prepaid postage to all registered voters.

But the Postal Service failed to postmark some ballots sent with the prepaid postage in the June primary, even though it’s their policy to do so. The lack of a postmark led to election officials invalidating some voters’ ballots.

Meanwhile, an unknown number of voters didn’t receive their ballot until Election Day or after.

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