Manhattan elected officials push for ballot drop boxes across New York state

Manhattan lawmakers at the Aug. 31 rally, posing with a ballot dropbox. Photo courtesy of state Senator Brad Hoylmans office.

Hoping to make it easier for New Yorkers to vote this year — and torpedo any outlandish claims from President Trump about voter fraud — Manhattan lawmakers rallied on Monday in support of legislation permitting ballot dropboxes in New York state.

State Senator Brad Hoylman joined Assemblyman Richard Gottfried, Manhattan Borough President Gale Brewer and good government advocates on the steps of the Farley Post Office on Aug. 31 in support of the bill that would permit local Boards of Elections to set up ballot dropboxes in their communities.

The legislation (S.8902/A.10942) would set up a voting dropbox network similar to those established in other states across America that have mail-in voting systems. Participants at Monday’s rally stressed the need for New York to have such a network, given that the U.S. Postal Service is mired in turmoil that threatens to undermine the delivery and count of all votes this November.

Hoylman and others maintained that ballot drop boxes are “a secure, reliable option” in used in at least 33 states. He also pointed out that the U.S. Department of Homeland Security called such drop boxes “a secure and convenient means for voters to return their ballots” in recent guidance to state and local election officials.

Though President Trump has wholly dismissed mail-in ballots as being ripe for fraud — Trump has secured a mailed ballot for himself in this coming election — recent studies have shown what Hoylman described as “minuscule” rates of possible fraud, 0.0025% of all ballots cast being identified as potentially fraudulent.

“New York won’t allow Donald Trump’s relentless attempts to undermine our elections and spread misinformation to succeed,” Hoylman said. “As his administration’s attacks on the USPS create postal delays across the country and New York grapples with historic numbers of absentee ballots, we need to ensure New Yorkers that their votes will be counted.”

“Secure drop boxes will make it easier to vote and make sure ballots are honestly and quickly delivered and counted. Drop boxes have been proven to work in states from Connecticut to Oregon. Our bill will give New Yorkers the same convenient and safe option,” added Gottfried.

Manhattan Assemblywomen Deborah Glick and Yuh-Line Niou also spoke in favor of the dropboxes.

“We need to provide committed voters with as many secure opportunities to vote as possible,” Glick said. People want to vote, but during a pandemic many voters may not be able to stand on long lines due to their health issues, or those of family members.”

““For the November election, it is essential that our New Yorkers have the opportunity to safely and easily vote amid the COVID-19 pandemic,” Niou added. “Most New Yorkers might opt to vote absentee for the sake of their health and we need to ensure that Federal efforts to undermine our vote by mail system are fully refuted.”

A litany of governmental advocates also praised the legislation, including the League of Women Voters of New York State, VoteEarlyNY, the Downtown Women for Change, Citizens Union, NYPIRG and Empire State Indivisible.

The bill, if enacted, would require all Boards of Elections to post on their websites same-day information about drop box locations. Voters would be able to drop off their completed ballots by the close of polls on Election Day.

While June is typically the close of the legislative session in Albany, the state legislature has been working remotely during the COVID-19 pandemic, and could reconvene if needed, according to a spokesperson for Hoylman.

The lawmaker has also asked Governor Andrew Cuomo to issue an executive order permitting ballot drop boxes for this coming election, the spokesperson added.