Cuomo Changes Election Rules in Effort to Slow Spread of COVID-19 Outbreak

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By: 
Jean-Paul Salamanca
Publication: 
Newsday
Mar
14
2020

Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo signed an executive order Saturday temporarily modifying election procedures to help reduce the spread of the COVID-19 virus.

Under the new order, the candidate petitioning process will be suspended effective 5 p.m. Tuesday for the June primaries for congressional, state senate, state assembly and judicial races.

In addition, the signature requirements for ballot access will also be modified under the new order. Candidates now only need to collect 30 percent of the statutory threshold. This means that congressional candidates need only 375 signatures rather than 1,250. Meanwhile, State Senate candidates need 300 signatures rather than 1,000, and State Assembly candidates require 150 signatures instead of the normally-required 500.

Deadlines and procedures will also be changed in order to accommodate New Yorkers who wish to vote absentee for the Queens borough president special election on March 24. The current deadline to register to vote absentee will now be extended to March 23, the day before the special election. Absentee votes must be postmarked or delivered in person up until the day of the election on March 24.

"Public health experts have been clear that one of the most common ways to communicate COVID-19 is through direct person to person contact, and we are doing everything in our immediate power to reduce unnecessary interactions. This executive order modifies the election process in a way that both protects public health and ensures the democratic process remains healthy and strong regardless of the ongoing pandemic," said Cuomo, a Democrat.

In a phone interview Saturday evening, Nick Lalota, Suffolk Board of Elections Republican commissioner, said:

“I think it’s a good idea to reduce contact with residents. I think there is a bipartisan agreement that promotes the health and safety of all New Yorkers.”

The Nassau County Republican Committee issued a statement that said: "The Committee agrees with the Governor’s Executive Order, which will reduce the number of individual contacts between petition gatherers and those who sign nominating petitions for individuals seeking elective office. ... At the same time, the altered petition signature gathering procedures will still preserve the integrity of the electoral process." With Keldy Ortiz