Since last spring, all New Yorkers have been able to request an absentee ballot and vote by mail under a COVID-19 emergency order.

What You Need To Know

  • Voters rejected two ballot measures last week that would have made it significantly easier to vote in New York

  • The state Conservative Party spent more than $3 million on a "Vote No" campaign
  • Lawmakers may extend a COVID-19 emergency order that has allowed for widespread absentee voting since 2020

A statewide measure on the ballot last week would have made that option permanent. But a majority of voters rejected it, along with another ballot question that would have allowed for same-day voter registration.

“I think we’re going to see a lot of angry voters next year when they find out that the ease of getting an absentee ballot has disappeared,” said Susan Lerner, executive director of the good-government group Common Cause New York.

The election results were a stunning blow to voting reform advocates and have led to a round of finger-pointing among Democratic leaders. “Frankly, this was a failure of the state Democratic Party,” said state Senator Zellnor Myrie.

Many leading Democrats believe party leaders were caught sleeping, out-hustled by forces on the right that they accuse of fear-mongering.

The state Conservative party spent more than three million dollars on a "Vote No" campaign, complete with ads that declared the voting measures “an invitation to fraud and a scam to rig the system.”

“On both those proposals, we thought it would lead to additional election fraud -- ballot fraud -- and that was of immense concern to us,” said party chairman Jerry Kassar.

Kassar points out an instance of alleged ballot harvesting in a Staten Island City Council Republican primary in June. But evidence of widespread voter fraud is virtually non-existent, Myrie noted.

“It is our job as Democrats to stand up to that, and to say that expanding the franchise is a good thing for you, and that allegations of fraud are just not true,” he said.

The soonest state lawmakers could get any proposals back on the ballot is 2023. In the meantime, they could extend the current emergency order allowing for widespread absentee voting, which is set to expire at the end of December.

They could also allow New Yorkers to register to vote 10 days before an election, instead of the current 25-day cutoff, under legislation that has already twice passed the Senate.

“Hopefully now, given the failure, the unfortunate failure of the ballot proposals, maybe we’ll be able to come to an agreement as two houses and move that forward so people have more opportunities to register to vote,” Myrie said.

Latrice Walker, chair of the Assembly committee on election law, sounded confident there will be legislative action.

“I think that we will come to a resolution that will be something that will be formidable and acceptable to the voters of the state of New York,” she said.