TODAY'S PAPER
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OpinionEditorial

State lawmakers should revisit election system

Ballots are sorted at the Nassau County Board

Ballots are sorted at the Nassau County Board of Elections on Nov. 6 in Mineola. Credit: Howard Schnapp

It is now three weeks since the general election and county boards of elections around New York State are still counting the vote.

No, the holdup here is not legal challenges from President Donald Trump. The outcomes of most New York races including the presidential one are now clear. Still, the process is creaking along as election officials carefully count an unprecedented number of absentee ballots.

The problem is the process.

New York’s election system usually was expected to churn through a relatively small number of mailed absentee ballots, a much more laborious task than counting machine votes. Pandemic rules allowing more people to vote absentee this year in the face of COVID-19 meant a big increase. That was good, and wide-scale absentee voting should remain.

But some systems not built for major mail-in voting need revisiting.

New York voters have the unusual ability to vote absentee and then revoke that vote and make their choices in person. That means officials don’t open and count absentee ballots as they arrive, as the ballot might be tossed due to an in-person vote. Ballots postmarked by Election Day are also allowed to arrive up to seven days later. These customs can be helpful for voters, but overall they slow down the process too much.

Challenging ballots due to technical mistakes made by voters is a blood sport for political parties in New York. Voters should get the benefit of the doubt when it comes to bumbles like adding tape to an envelope or leaving a stray mark.

State legislators shouldn’t delay in focusing on these issues, while the memory of Election 2020 is still fresh.

— The editorial board

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