Absentee ballots are starting to hit Long Island voters’ mailboxes just as those voters are hearing news about some Board of Election glitches. They include approximately 800 vendor-produced Nassau County ballots with the wrong name on the "oath" envelope, and more similarly misprinted ballots in Brooklyn.
Frustrating indeed, but it’s not surprising that there would be some hiccups during this extraordinary pandemic year as New York hustles to ramp up a system of absentee voting.
The problems on Long Island so far are minor and have been addressed — any affected Nassau voter is getting a new ballot package — and there are safeguards to make this a secure election.
For those voting absentee, here’s a few things to know:
Once you’ve made your choices, insert your ballot into the "oath" envelope, which must be signed and dated in the places indicated. Seal that envelope and put it into the second "return" envelope provided by the BOE. If you’re mailing the ballot back, affix 55 cents worth of postage or a Forever Stamp.
You also can drop that envelope at Nassau or Suffolk Board of Elections headquarters or at early voting sites (which start opening Oct. 24), or at regular voting sites on Nov. 3. It’s fine to have a trusted friend or relative do that for you if you are concerned about being in public during the pandemic.
If you make a mistake — say, accidentally ripping one of the envelopes — call the county Board of Elections to get help. That’s 516-571-8683 in Nassau, or 631-852-4500 in Suffolk.
Get those ballots in early. That will take some stress off the Postal Service and election boards. The deadline to postmark a ballot or deliver it in person is Election Day, Nov. 3. If you haven’t requested a ballot, you can do it remotely up until Oct. 27, and in-person all the way up to Monday, Nov. 2.
And there’s still time to register to vote, too: postmark new registration applications or do it in person by Oct. 9.
That’s the process, and there are some guardrails in place, just in case. If you make a small technical error on your absentee ballot — say, forgetting to sign the oath envelope — your county board of elections is supposed to get in touch and give you the chance to fix it. That could even happen after Election Day.
And don’t forget that even if you request or return an absentee ballot, New Yorkers can still go to the polls and vote in person. Only the in-person vote would be counted.
This complicated election season has underscored the importance of recent election reforms, and more are needed in New York. For example, we should have an online system for voters to track absentee ballots.
But for now we have the system as it is, and it appears sturdy enough to weather the storm. We can all help with patience as votes are tabulated — and voting early, in whatever form.
— The editorial board