SYRACUSE, N.Y. (WSYR-TV) — As election day approaches, some voters in New York State will be able to cast their ballots as soon as Monday, after the Onondaga County Board of Elections mailed out their first wave of absentee ballots on Friday.
In a normal year, only people who would be out of town for the election or have an illness that would prevent them from going to the polls on Election Day would be able to vote via an absentee ballot. However, due to COVID-19, anyone in New York State can request an absentee ballot this year.
“Because of COVID, the governor and the legislature passed a bill that said that if you put temporary illness down, because of risk of pandemic spread, then you qualify to get an absentee ballot,” Dustin Czarny, Onondaga County Democratic elections commissioner, said.
This has led to a huge influx of absentee voting requests this year.
“In the past years, we’ve seen the highest 16,000 to 17,000 in absentees for presidential years,” Michelle Sardo, Onondaga County Republican elections commissioner, said. “We have well-surpassed that, we are close to 40,000.”
It’s already a record number of absentee ballot requests for Onondaga County, and there’s still time to request yours, but the sooner you act, the better because it’s a busy time for election centers.
“To request an absentee ballot, it has to be postmarked by Oct. 27, but really if you’re mailing an absentee ballot application to us, you really need to do it by Oct. 21 to give us enough time to process,” Czarny said. “But skip that, go to the portal online, it’s a lot easier to do the portal, it’s a lot easier for us as well, and then you don’t have to worry about mailing it in.”
Once you have your absentee ballot, you have until election day to send it in. You can either mail it into your local elections board or drop it off at any of the polling locations in your county. In order for it to be counted, you have to make sure it’s postmarked on or before election day, which is Nov. 3.
Also, if you’re voting via an absentee ballot, just remember it won’t be counted until after election day.
“Early voting and in-person voting on election day are tabulated on election night and reported on election night,” Czarny said. “Absentee votes, we’ll wait until after election day to start opening those, because you can vote early or in-person on election day, and that would cancel your absentee ballot. So, that’s why we can’t open those until after election day.”
Before you can request or vote via an absentee ballot, you have to make sure you’re registered to vote, and there are several ways to do that.
“First they can come into our office if they choose to come in here to register to vote,” Sardo said. “They can go online, they can go to the DMV, they can go on our website because the town halls usually have stuff and the libraries usually have stuff, but some of them aren’t open yet.”
The deadline to register to vote is Oct. 9.
If you’re unsure if you’re registered, need an absentee ballot or have any other voting questions, visit onvote.net.