A box of absentee ballots wait to be counted at the...

A box of absentee ballots wait to be counted at the Albany County Board of Elections in Albany on June 30. Credit: AP/Hans Pennink

ALBANY — Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo said Friday he will soon sign a measure that would allow New Yorkers to cite COVID-19 as a reason to obtain an absentee ballot.

It’s one of several measures the State Legislature approved in July that the Democratic governor is expected to sign into law. He also expressed support for an idea to allow counties to deploy drop boxes for voters to deposit ballots.

Under current law, the only health provisions for obtaining an absentee ballot is if the voter is ill or is taking care of someone who is. The state Senate and Assembly approved a bill that expands the criteria to “allow voters who are concerned about voting in-person due to an epidemic or disease outbreak to request an absentee ballot.”

Asked about it Friday, the governor said: “I will sign that bill based on COVID. I think mail-in is the smartest way.”

The Legislature also approved a bill that would give voters more time to apply for and receive absentee ballots, which lawmakers said would give post offices and county election boards more time to process them. The governor has until Thursday to sign or veto the bill.

Meanwhile, Cuomo voiced support for the use of drop boxes to allow voters to avoid crowds and lines at polling places — which are often housed at school buildings — an option other states began using even before the coronavirus pandemic. Legislators have proposed a bill to allow deposit boxes, though they haven’t voted on it yet.

“On the dropping off of the ballots in the schools, some states have actually come up with some creative ideas where they have drop boxes — secure drop boxes, right?” Cuomo said. “Why couldn’t you have a box … that you drop your ballot into the box and the box is a board of elections box? Either at a polling site or in front of a polling site so you don’t have to walk into the school. Why not?”

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