Qualified voters for the 2021 School District Elections can now apply for an absentee ballot when they are unable to appear personally at the polling place because there is a risk of contracting or spreading COVID-19 or any other disease that may cause illness to the voter or to other members of the public. This is similar to the legislation in place last year, which also allowed qualified voters to consider COVID-19 and the potential contraction thereof as a “temporary illness” for purposes of absentee voting.

This change is pursuant to recent amendments to Section 2018-a of New York State’s Education Law that expanded the definition of “illness” during a declared disaster emergency. On April 26, 2021, Governor Cuomo signed Bill S5545 into law as Chapter 60, immediately putting this change into effect. Prior to that date, COVID-19 was added to the definition of “illness” for all non-school district elections.

This legislation is only in place for 2021.

Timelines and requirements for submitting absentee ballot applications and requests in districts with personal and poll registration remain in effect.

We will continue to monitor this development and other developments related to the COVID-19 pandemic. If you have any questions, please contact the Harris Beach attorney with whom you usually work.

This alert is not a substitute for advice of counsel on specific legal issues.

Harris Beach has offices throughout New York State, including Albany, Buffalo, Ithaca, Long Island, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse and White Plains, as well as New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.