New York must prepare now for the June 23, 2020 election—if it is held. Since petitions were filed in March, two Board of Elections employees have died from the COVD virus. Yesterday, we witnessed how the Wisconsin primary forced people to choose between safety and civic duty.
New York State must allow anyone who wants to vote with a paper absentee ballot be allowed due to the COVID Pandemic. Absentee ballots must also be easily available. They must be mailed to each voter and easily downloadable. Regular voting dates and sites must also be available providing voters with many options so that there can be appropriate social distancing.
Queens, New York City, New York State and the United States have a long history of disenfranchisement, let’s end that now in the State of New York. We must all be able to vote by mail.
As a longtime community activist and advocate, now as a candidate for State Assembly for the 34th District, and through my recent working in founding COVID Care, I know my neighbors. They are proud civic participants. But we must not ask them to endanger their lives to vote as is happened in Wisconsin. We need Democracy, without risk of death.
Under New York State law, voting by mail is only available to people who are sick. Without adequate testing, and with COVID-19 carriers proving to be asymptomatic for up to multiple weeks, and the State of New York, either Governor Cuomo or the legislature must deem everyone sick until proven otherwise. For now, it is impossible for most without power and privilege to prove that they are not sick, sick, or already been sick We must assume we are all sick and commence a “by mail” voting process in the State of New York today. Please start the printers!
Disenfranchisement is not new in Queens. From signature challenges to the Queens Democratic machine, our borough has been hurt by a few power brokers for generations. Now is the time to end that with mail voting. It is our right to have easy access to the ballot box. And there is no way to ensure that during this horrible pandemic than by letting people vote from their home. It makes sense. We are all in our home.
As of right now, there are members of the board of elections and election volunteers that have already become sick in doing their job. But we cannot endanger more, especially when many election volunteers that are often elderly. We must think and act like Oregon or Estonia in developing new and innovative ways to increase voter turnout, not forcefully find ways to turn people away. Our goal must be enfranchisement.
New York must send out ballots as soon as possible so that they can be returned to a central location. We even have enough time if we act fast enough to let the ballots sit for at least a week and be infected if need be. Then we count them all, then we let all Queens be counted.
We don’t have to lose our democracy during COVID-19, in fact, we can take a few simple steps to make sure people remember the lengths that New York went to during this tragic time to ensure that Democracy lived on, and in fact, was enriched.
And as we look forward, we must think about new ways to enfranchise, including secure electronic voting. We need to look to partners blockchain, banks, and others that have developed secure systems and learn from them. Our goal must be enfranchisement, not disenfranchisement, and I call on New York to lead.
That must start today. I call on the State of New York to give all residents, the opportunity to vote by mail.