Legislation (S.253A/A.1144A) Ensures Ballots are Not Voided Due to Stray Marks or Writing
Governor Kathy Hochul today signed legislation (S.253A/A.1144A) to safeguard absentee ballots and protect New Yorkers' right to vote by ensuring that ballots are not voided due to stray marks or writing as long as the express intent of the voter is unambiguous.
"While other states put up barriers to voting rights, New York is expanding access to the ballot box with common-sense reforms that make our elections free and fair," Governor Hochul said. "No ballot should be disqualified because of a single errant pen stroke, and the legislation we're signing today marks a major step forward to ensure New Yorkers' unambiguous votes are counted."
The Election Law requires that ballots only be marked in the space where the voter is voting for the candidate of their choice. Occasionally, ballots have stray marks or stains. These could be accidental or inadvertent, and could disqualify an otherwise legal ballot, disenfranchising the voter with no public policy benefit. This legislation ensures that when the express intent of a voter is clear, no absentee ballot is voided because of a stray mark or writing and will eliminate costly legal challenges to the validity of absentee ballots that are a burden to New Yorkers and have the potential to disenfranchise voters.
Absentee ballots and the ability to participate in the electoral process that they facilitate are fundamental to preserving free, fair elections and the strength of our democracy. In recent years, the usage of absentee ballots has skyrocketed in New York and it is critically important that their use is protected to ensure no New Yorker is disenfranchised.
State Senator Zellnor Myrie said, "Absentee ballots are a critical way New Yorkers can participate in their democracy when going to the polls in-person isn't an option. No voter should have their ballot disqualified for a stray mark or other technicality, as long as their intent is unambiguously clear. This law will help ensure more votes are counted and I'm grateful to Governor Hochul for signing it."
Assemblymember Amy Paulin said, "It's critical to both the electoral process and voter confidence that the intent of a voter be honored. This bill requires absentee ballots with stray marks to be counted when the intent of the voter is unambiguous. For voters who utilize absentee ballots, this lifts a technicality that ensures their vote is counted even if there is an accidental mark somewhere on the page. I thank Senator Myrie for his partnership and advocacy that led to the bill's passage in the Senate. I also applaud Governor Hochul for signing this bill into law, and in doing so taking an important step to fully enfranchise New York voters."
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