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State Law Change Improves Military Voting

By Assemblyman Will Barclay (R-Pulaski)

Earlier this month, our state law changed to improve voting opportunity and procedures for the military. I was pleased to support this legislation in the Assembly. The new law allows military to be able to cast their vote in a time frame which allows their ballot to be counted.

The bill (A-10681) was signed into law by the Governor earlier this month. Last year, Congress passed the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act. The new federal law had a trickledown effect for states. 1.) States must allow military voters to designate a preferred method of transmission to the voter of voting material, including fax and e-mail. 2.) States must send ballots to military and special federal voters 45 days before an election.

New York is among 10 states which have primary elections in the fall. Given the narrow timeline between primary and general elections, many military voters do not know who the candidates will be in the general election to allow them to vote and get ballots returned in a timely manner. Before this new law was passed, military voters could only request ballots through the federal mail. With sea or air delivery, sometimes it takes weeks for a request to arrive at the Board of Elections; between the voter and the Board of Elections, the process is comprised of four or five transatlantic mail crossings.

This bill will greatly reduce the round trip time to promote the timely receipt of ballots and increase voter participation. In the past, many military were unable to have their votes counted because ballots were returned to the Board of Elections too late. The only way to have those ballots opened and counted is through a court procedure.

Primarily, this legislation allows military and special federal voters the option of fax and e-mail to communicate concerning voting materials, which promotes the timely receipt of ballots and increases participation of military and overseas voters from New York State. This legislation will provide voters overseas with various options in registering to vote, request an absentee ballot application, apply for the ballot and cast the ballot. There is a chance the updates to the law have not gone far enough and, ultimately, New York may be forced to move its primary date up earlier in the year, which would be determined by the federal government.

Budget Update:
Thanks to our Democratic Majority leaders in the Executive and in the Legislature—the Senate and the Assembly—our state has not been able to negotiate a budget. In-party political fighting has pushed negotiations to embarrassing new lows. Because joint conference committee meetings and the budget process dictated by New York State law have been neglected, we face the possibility of a shut down. While it is unclear on what that means or which agencies would still operate, many things would cease to operate and many state employees would be out of work indefinitely. This must be avoided. New Yorkers cannot afford this political bickering anymore. It would be disastrous to shut down state government. I am urging my colleagues to open the budget process to rank-and-file members of the Legislature and to stay in Albany and pass a budget without further delay.

If you have any questions or comments on this or any other state issue, or if you would like to be added to my mailing list or receive my newsletter, please contact my office. My office can be reached by mail at 200 North Second Street, Fulton, New York 13069, by e-mail at [email protected] or by calling (315) 598-5185.