ALBANY — Elections commissioners across the state are calling for a postponement of the primary elections scheduled to take place in late April.
“Elections boards throughout the state are risking the safety and health of personnel to prepare for impending elections on April 28,” according to a statement from the state Elections Commissioners Association. “We are facing critical shortages of inspectors and polling places due to the ongoing public health crisis. Over the next week, we will find it almost impossible to meet mission critical deadlines for testing machines and preparing ballots because of staff shortages due to the ongoing stay-at-home order.”
The commissioners are asking for a postponement of the Democratic presidential primary scheduled for April 28 to June 23.
“Fielding inspectors in the midst of this health crisis is dangerous and may be impossible,” the commissioners said. “Traditional polling places may be unusable as they are currently restricted or closed to the public. Postponing until June will not only give us time to plan, but will ease the burdens on host counties budgets that are devastated by the COVID-19 crisis.”
Commissioners are also calling for absentee balloting during all times of declared state of emergency due to infectious disease or pandemic. “This will allow all voters who are at-risk but perhaps not yet sick to apply for and receive an absentee ballot. At-risk or vulnerable citizens should not have to make decisions on whether to exercise their right to vote or risk their health,” the commissioners said.
For all primary and special elections, commissioners are asking for wide latitude to the local boards of elections to consolidate polling places and election districts to best operate the election.
“While we hope the COVID-19 crisis will be better by June, it is quite likely we will have limited numbers of polling places and inspectors even then,” the commissioners said. “We need this flexibility to adjust to circumstances on the ground in our jurisdictions that may be changing right up until the June 23 election.”
Acting on these items will buy precious time and save host counties significant amount of resources while also preserving the rights of voters and safety and health of election workers, the commissioners said.
“Every day that we do not act makes us less prepared and wastes valuable time and money,” they said.