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NY opens portal to absentee ballot applications

New York state opened an online absentee ballot request portal on Tuesday as part of this year’s efforts to make the Nov. 3 election as safe and socially distanced as possible.

On Aug. 24, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed an executive order allowing voters to request absentee ballots for any reason, by phone or internet, due to ongoing concerns surrounding COVID-19.

On the web portal, found at absenteeballot.elections.ny.gov, voters can enter their county of residence, name, birthday and ZIP code, and the portal will populate the rest of their information. Voters can choose to have a ballot mailed to them, or to pick one up from their local Board of Elections.

Normally, to request an absentee ballot, a voter would provide an excuse for why they were unable to physically go to the polls on Election Day. This year, anyone concerned about catching the novel coronavirus can use that as a valid excuse.

Cuomo’s executive order also loosened the timing requirements for voting by absentee ballot. Ballots will be counted as long as they have been postmarked on or before Election Day, and must be received by Nov. 10. Voters can hand in their ballots to their local Board of Elections personally until Nov. 4.

This is the first year the state has set up an online portal for absentee ballot applications.

In past elections, voters had to acquire a paper application from their local Board of Elections.

Michelle LaFave, the Democratic elections commissioner for Jefferson County, said the online portal will make it easier to send absentee ballots out.

“It definitely makes things a lot easier, because we get the information that we need,” she said. “It makes it easier both for us and for the voter.”

Absentee ballots will be sent on Sept. 18 for all military and federal voters. LaFave said shortly after Sept. 18, absentee ballots for all other voters will be sent out, and the Board of Elections will continue sending ballots until the end of the election.

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