WBNG-TV: NY continues to overhaul elections with latest absentee ballot, early voting reforms

(WBNG) -- State election experts tell 12 News they’re hopeful some of the problems we saw in the NY-22 Congressional race in 2020 will never be seen again after the latest in a series of reforms.

Gov. Kathy Hochul (D) recently signed four bills into law that tackle New York’s election systems and make what supporters call much needed upgrades.

Three of the bills focus on making it easier for New Yorkers to vote: increasing the number of early voting sites, creating an online absentee ballot application portal, and introducing a ballot tracker so voters know whether their vote has been counted.

The early voting expansion in particular supporters told 12 News will have a huge impact across the state.

“As this reform continues to grow in New York State, and people still want the ability to do an in-person option instead of an absentee ballot, especially with Prop 4′s failure, and we’re still going to have an excuse-based absentee for the foreseeable future, (early voting) is just as important,” said Dustin Czarny, the Democratic elections commissioner for Onondaga County as well as the Dem Caucus Chair for the NYS Elections Commissioner Association.

Finally, the last bill will force absentee ballots to be opened and processed as they are received; currently, this does not happen until a week after Election Day at the earliest.

State Senator Michael Gianaris (D, Queens), who wrote the early voting and absentee ballot counting bills, told 12 News Tuesday while this has been a problem for a while, the NY-22 really brought the issue into a national spotlight.

“I’m hopeful with the recent changes there will be no more NY-22s,” he said with a smile.

This change will allow absentee ballot results to be reported on Election Day instead of multiple weeks after.

As for where New York goes from here, Gianaris mentioned the overall structure of the state’s various BOEs as the next major point of emphasis.