ALBANY — Voters statewide will be able to track their mailed-in absentee ballots under a new service that addresses a recurring concern from voters who have chosen the popular alternative to voting at poll sites.
Voters will be able to track the progress of their mailed ballot from verifying that an application for the ballot was received to receipt of the filled-in ballot at their county Board of Elections to the counting of the vote.
The new information will be added to an online tool provided by the state Board of Elections to verify whether a voter is registered and where he or she may vote during early voting and on Election Day. The site includes directions and a map to the polls. The website also identifies a voter’s Assembly, State Senate and congressional election districts and in what party if any the voter has enrolled.
The new portal is part of the state’s Voter Registration and Poll Site Search tool at https://voterlookup.elections.ny.gov/.
The system also will alert a voter if there is a problem with the ballot if it can be “cured” with election officials to allow the ballot to be counted.
But the new service comes with an important change.
Until now, a person who mailed in an absentee ballot could still vote at the polls and the absentee ballot would be deleted. Now, voters who vote by absentee ballots who later decide to vote at the polls will have to cast a paper affidavit ballot, which will be set aside until the votes are canvassed by county officials.
As votes are counted, county election officials will determine whether the absentee ballot had already been counted. If it had, the affidavit ballot won’t replace it. If the absentee ballot hadn’t yet been counted, the affidavit ballot will be accepted, according to the law.
County elections officials in Nassau and Suffolk supported the tracking system.
“Every commissioner wanted it since we were inundated with calls asking if the ballot went out,” said Anita Katz, a Suffolk County elections commissioner. “The funding was a cost for the state board, not the locals.”
The new service was created from a 2020 bill first introduced by Sen. Luis R. Sepulveda (D-Bronx): "This legislation will allow voters to track each step of the absentee ballot process, notifying them on every leg of its journey. This is critical for transparency and voter protection as the reliance on mail-in ballots ensues from the growing pandemic."
Such systems are in place in New York City, Onondaga and Monroe counties, and in at least some counties in as many as a dozen states from Maine to California.
Voters can apply for absentee ballots at their county board of elections, by designating a person to deliver the application in person to the county board of elections, or by downloading forms from the state Board of Elections at https://absenteeballot.elections.ny.gov/. The county board must receive an application no later than June 13 for the June 28 primary election.
For the June 28 primary elections, absentee ballots must be postmarked no later than June 28 and must be received by the county board of elections no later than July 5. Voters may drop off their absentee ballots on June 28 before the polls close.