ALBANY — New York is one of the few states where a voter may mail in or drop off an absentee ballot and then vote at their polling place, although only the vote cast at the polling site will count, officials said Thursday.
Election law states that an absentee ballot will be put aside if the same voter casts a ballot on Election Day, Nov. 3, or at a polling site during the early voting period at selected sites in each county from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1.
“Even if you request or cast and return an absentee ballot, you may still go to the polls and vote in person,” the board stated. “The election law recognizes that plans change."
The issue arose Thursday when President Donald Trump encouraged voters in North Carolina to vote by mail and “then go and vote” to test the system. Trump has alleged there will be fraud at the polls in November. Trump later revised his advice to suggest voters go to the polls to make sure their absentee ballots were received.
In most states including New York, intentionally voting more than once to record two or more votes is a felony.
New York law, however, has allowed voters to overrule their absentee ballot for decades. In the past, the practice involved far fewer absentee votes than the millions expected to be mailed in for the November elections by voters seeking to avoid the spread of COVID-19 at crowded polling places.
There are several safeguards to make sure no one casts more than one vote. Voters at polls are checked against a list of absentee voters in electronic poll books. If a voter has submitted an absentee ballot by mail or dropped one off at a polling site, the absentee ballot is set aside and only the vote cast through the polling machine at the poll site will count. In addition, all 62 counties compare their lists of voters to make sure no one has voted twice, according to the state Board of Elections.
Because the system is electronic, a huge influx of absentee ballots isn’t expected to further delay results, officials said. However, the law requires seven days after election to pass before final votes can be tallied to make sure all absentee ballots have been received by mail. So in close races, final results may not be known for days or weeks or, as in the June primaries, for more than a month.
An elections advocate is confident the process will run smoothly without further delaying vote results.
“We have strict controls in place which allow you to decide to override your absentee ballot in person,” said Susan Lerner of Common Cause-NY. “Our state allows us to change our minds … in most other places you would be arrested. In New York, they simply throw out your absentee ballot … it’s very secure.”