Governor Kathy Hochul recently signed Bill S7619 that will extend for another year the provision under New York Education Law that permits voters to use the risk of contracting COVID-19 as the basis for obtaining absentee ballots. This extension will be in effect until January 1, 2023. Qualified voters for the 2022 School District Elections and Budget Vote can now apply for an absentee ballot based on the risk of contracting COVID-19.

New York Education Law Section 2018-a provides that qualified voters may obtain an absentee ballot because (s)he is unable to appear at the polling place due to an illness or physical disability. In the midst of the pandemic, former Governor Cuomo signed a bill amending Section 2018-a by adding the following to the definition of illness: “instances where a voter is unable to appear personally at the polling place of the school district in which they are a qualified voter because there is a risk of contracting or spreading a disease that may cause illness to the voter or to other members of the public.” N.Y. Educ. L. § 2018-a(2). The amended definition was only in effect until January 1, 2022.

Governor Hochul extended this provision for another year.  This means qualified voters for the Annual Budget Vote and Board Election in May 2022 can apply for absentee ballots due to the risk of contracting COVID-19.  Even with this change, the timelines and requirements for submitting absentee ballot applications and requests in districts with personal and poll registration remain in effect. Absentee ballot applications must be received by the district clerk of the school district at least 7 days before the election (May 10, 2022) if the ballot is to be mailed to the voter, or 1 day before the election (May 16, 2022) if the ballot is to be delivered personally to the voter. Absentee ballots shall be received by the district clerk no later than 5:00 p.m. on May 17, 2022.

Practically, while the extension may be helpful to those seeking absentee ballots, it is somewhat inconsistent with the recent lifting of the mask mandate in schools and seeming waning of urgency related to COVID-19.

If you have any questions, please contact Jeffrey Weiss or 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, New York City, Rochester, Saratoga Springs, Syracuse, Uniondale and White Plains, as well as Washington D.C., New Haven, Connecticut and Newark, New Jersey.