Absentee ballots cast in New York state would not be rejected or voided because of stray marks or writing under a new law signed Friday by Gov. Kathy Hochul. 

The intent of the voter would have be clear and unambiguous in order for the ballot to be upheld. 

"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," 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." 

New York's election law requires ballots be marked in the space where a voter is casting their vote as their candidate of choice. Stray marks or stains can occur, leading to the rejection of the ballot as a result. The law approved by Hochul will allow for the vote to be counted as long as the intent is clear. 

Close election contests often come down to absentee ballots that have been cast. The use of absentee balloting has increased over the last two years amid the COVID-19 pandemic, provisions that have since expired. New York voters last year rejected a constitutional amendment that would have allowed for no-excuse absentee balloting, ending a relatively narrow set of reasons for obtaining a ballot.

"Absentee ballots are a critical way New Yorkers can participate in their democracy when going to the polls in-person isn't an option," said state Sen. Zellnor Myrie, who sponsored the measure with Assemblywoman Amy Paulin. "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."