TODAY'S PAPER
Good Afternoon
Good Afternoon
OpinionEditorial

The right move on NY primaries

A poll worker opens an absentee ballot. For

A poll worker opens an absentee ballot. For counties where there are non-presidential races, like Nassau and Suffolk's congressional and state primaries, registered voters will automatically be mailed an absentee ballot application form, with return postage paid. Credit: Joseph D. Sullivan

New York’s June 23 primary election will look different, and that’s good.

For starters, Democratic state Board of Elections officials on Monday canceled the state’s Democratic presidential primary given that Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders has suspended campaigning, leaving former Vice President Joe Biden the expected nominee.

It was the right move. Sanders wanted to stay on the ballot to gain delegates and influence on the party platform, and his supporters want to register their support. But the coronavirus pandemic is an extraordinary and extenuating circumstance. Sanders has endorsed Biden. The possibility of spreading COVID-19 is not worth the statement vote. Counties across the state that didn’t have scheduled contests beyond the presidential primary can now keep poll sites closed and voters safely at home.

For counties where there are non-presidential races, like Nassau and Suffolk’s congressional and state primaries, eligible voters will automatically be mailed an absentee ballot application form, with return postage paid. Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo issued an order on the topic last week under his emergency executive powers. 

This, too, is the right move. It would have been cleaner for voters to receive a ballot in the mail up front, but that very possibly would have been illegal under New York’s inanely byzantine constitution. For now, even healthy voters have the option to choose absentee given the pandemic, also per executive order. The more voting that can be done remotely, the safer for poll workers and the public.

Still, the absentee applications shouldn’t be the end of what the state does to bolster elections in 2020. Mailing applications and counting absentee ballots entail moving a mountain of envelopes and paper. That will mean funding for and a high level of performance from not-always-stellar New York elections officials. The state should conduct a vigorous public relations effort about remote voting and encourage people to do so. And the State Legislature needs to take the steps to change the state constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting even when there isn’t a pandemic.

Other states vote fully and successfully by mail. New York needs to get with modernity in times of crisis and beyond.

— The editorial board

Columns