ALBANY — Election commissioners across New York are begging Gov. Andrew Cuomo and top legislative leaders to postpone the April 28 presidential primary election date as the coronavirus outbreak ravages the state.
They’re worried an election could unnecessarily imperil staff and voters heading to the polls, as health officials are trying to stop disease spread and maintain social distancing.
“Election Boards throughout the state are risking personnel safety and health to prepare for impending elections on April 28, 2020. We are facing critical shortages of inspectors and polling places due to the ongoing public health crisis,” wrote New York State Elections Commissioners’ Association in a letter to the Democratic pols.
“Over the next week, BOEs will find it almost impossible to meet mission critical deadlines for testing machines and preparing ballots because of staff shortages due to the ongoing stay-at-home order,” they added. “Fielding inspectors in the midst of this health crisis is dangerous and may be impossible.”
Early voting would begin April 18 if the election date is not altered. The coalition of local election officials want the presidential contest merged with the state’s June 23 primary for New York races.
Officials are also seeking to amend state law, allowing voters to cast absentee ballots “during all times of declared state of emergency due to infectious disease or pandemic.”
Anticipating a shortage of election inspectors and a limited number of polling sites, officials also want to consolidate poll sites and election districts in upstate counties strapped for resources.
Even Cuomo ally, State Democratic Party Chairman Jay Jacobs, is open to moving or nixing the election date altogether, in light of prioritizing the health and safety of New Yorkers.
But, when asked Tuesday during a coronavirus briefing in Manhattan, Cuomo said he “hasn’t thought about” changing the election at this time.
“We are certainly open to figuring out a solution for scheduling and the process of voting,” said state Senate spokesman Mike Murphy.
The state Assembly did not return a request for comment.
During the 2019 session, the legislature passed a constitutional amendment allowing a “no-excuse” absentee voting measure authorizing any registered voter to request a mail in ballot for any reason. That measure still has to be approved this year then placed on the ballot for a statewide voter referendum.
There’s already a bill introduced in the state Legislature that would move the presidential primary to June 23 and allow voters to mail in their ballots.
The move would also change the date of the special election for the vacant seat of disgraced GOP Rep. Chris Collins from the 27th District in western New York.
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