Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz and Senator James Sanders of south Queens want to make an already difficult election just a tad easier and cheaper for voters.
Last week, the two lawmakers revealed their proposal to have absentee ballots include return postage stamps to combat a “de facto poll tax” that comes with mailing in ballots.
“It is our jobs as stewards of democracy to ensure that there are as few barriers to voting as possible. Requiring postage to return an absentee ballot is tantamount to a poll tax, both with respect to the actual cost of postage as well as the logistical hurdle of purchasing a stamp,” Dinowitz said.
This bill, which was introduced by Dinowitz in 2015, is a simple one; it would only require the NYC Board of Elections to provide a return postage guaranteed envelope with absentee ballots, similar to an executive order issued by Governor Andrew Cuomo for the June 23 primary election. But the lawmakers pointed out that no such order was implemented for the Nov. 3 general election.
It is especially prominent now as political sources claimed a significant amount of voters chose to vote by absentee ballot due to concerns about the risk of COVID-19, despite long early voting lines across the city.
“In this difficult time as we continue to battle coronavirus, it is absolutely necessary that we make voting and participating in the democratic process as easy and safe as possible, and that includes fine tuning voting by absentee ballot,” Sanders said.
According to Dinowitz’s office, as voters began receiving absentee ballots for the Nov. 3 general election, many of them expressed confusion about whether they needed to pay for postage, and if so, how much was necessary.
“I am proud to have carried this bill for a number of years and am hopeful that we are able to get it passed as soon as possible so it can be in effect before New York State amends our constitution to allow no-excuse absentee voting in 2022,” Dinowitz said.