Requires county boards to create systems for processing electronic requests for absentee ballots.
TITLE OF BILL: An act to amend the election law, in relation to requiring county boards to create systems for processing electronic requests for absentee ballots
PURPOSE: This bill modernizes election law by requiring boards of elections to provide an electronic system for voters to apply for absentee ballots.
SUMMARY OF PROVISIONS:
Section 1 of the bill amends paragraph (d) of subdivision 2 of section 8-400 of the election law, as separately amended by chapters 97 and 104 of the laws of 2010, to permit requests for an absentee ballot by a communication other than a "letter," and replaces the signature requirement with the requirement that applications be signed or certified.
Section 2 of the bill amends section 8-400 of the election law to add a subdivision (11), requiring county boards of elections to offer voters a chance to apply for an absentee ballot by electronic form on the board's website, submitted over a secure connection. It further defines the requirements that such electronic systems should meet to ensure election integrity, and requires boards of elections to notify voters of an unsuccessful application. The new subdivision also provides that the method of the application's communication should affect neither the information requirements of the application, nor be presumed to alter the constitutional or statutory requirements that voters must meet before being issued an absentee ballot.
Section 3 of the bill provides for severability. Section 4 of the bill establishes the effective date.
JUSTIFICATION: Under current New York law, voters can register to vote by absentee ballot by obtaining a form, and mailing it to the board of elections. Forms are generally available for download on the state board of elections website, as well as many local board of elections' sites. While this is a step forward, it should be the policy of New York to provide voters who will be absent from the state on election day with as many opportunities as possible to obtain and submit a valid absentee ballot application.
Therefore, this bill would permit voters to request an absentee ballot by completing a form provided on websites maintained by county boards of elections. The bill also permits a voter to sign their absentee ballot application electronically. E-signatures today see wide implementation in electronic commerce, and New York law recognizes their validity when parties seek to use them (N.Y. State Tech. Code
sections 303-309, 2009). Boards of elections are not required to use New York's corresponding e-signature regulatory regime - they need only implement reasonable guarantees of security - but may at their discretion.
Other jurisdictions have experimented with electronic requests for absentee ballots. Delaware permits requests by electronic mail (Delaware Code title 15, section 5503, 2009). Similarly, election authorities in Maine have the option of accepting electronic applications, which more than 180 cities and towns have already implemented (Maine Revised Statutes, title 21A, section 753-A(6), 2009). Finally, the bill provides that it shall not be construed to alter the requirements a voter must meet before being eligible for an absentee ballot, or the content of the application. Only the method of delivery is affected.
LEGISLATIVE HISTORY: 2011-2012 - S.5127 - Referred to Elections 2010: A.09385 (Kavanagh) - Election Law
FISCAL IMPACT ON THE STATE: None.
EFFECTIVE DATE: This act shall take effect on the one hundred eightieth days after it shall have become a law.
STATE OF NEW YORK ________________________________________________________________________ 1989 2013-2014 Regular Sessions IN SENATE (PREFILED) January 9, 2013 ___________Introduced by Sen. CARLUCCI -- read twice and ordered printed, and when printed to be committed to the Committee on Elections AN ACT to amend the election law, in relation to requiring county boards to create systems for processing electronic requests for absentee ballots THE PEOPLE OF THE STATE OF NEW YORK, REPRESENTED IN SENATE AND ASSEM- BLY, DO ENACT AS FOLLOWS: Section 1. Paragraph (d) of subdivision 2 of section 8-400 of the election law, as separately amended by chapters 97 and 104 of the laws of 2010, is amended to read as follows: (d) The board of elections shall mail an absentee ballot to every qualified voter otherwise eligible for such a ballot, who requests such an absentee ballot from such board of elections in
[writing in a letter, telefax indicating the address, phone number and the telefax number from which the writing is sent or other written instrument]A COMMUNICATION, which is signed AND CERTIFIED by the voter and received by the board of elections not earlier than the thirtieth day nor later than the seventh day before the election for which the ballot is first requested and which states the address where the voter is registered and the address to which the ballot is to be mailed; provided, however, a military voter may request a military ballot or voter registration application or an absentee ballot application in a letter as provided in subdivision three of section 10-106 of this chapter; and provided further, a special federal voter may request a special federal ballot or voter registration application or an absentee ballot application in a letter as provided in paragraph d of subdivision one of section 11-202 of this chapter. The board of elections shall enclose with such ballot a form of application for absentee ballot if the applicant is registered with such board of elections.EXPLANATION--Matter in ITALICS (underscored) is new; matter in brackets [ ] is old law to be omitted. LBD03139-01-3 S. 1989 2
S 2. Section 8-400 of the election law is amended by adding a new subdivision 11 to read as follows: 11. (A) THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS OF EACH COUNTY SHALL ENACT PROCEDURES AND REGULATIONS TO ENABLE VOTERS TO REQUEST AND APPLY FOR ABSENTEE BALLOTS BY MEANS OF A FORM SUBMITTED OVER A SECURE INTERNET CONNECTION THROUGH THE WEBSITE OF THE BOARD AND/OR THE COUNTY. (B) ANY ELECTRONIC REQUEST FOR AN ABSENTEE BALLOT SUBMITTED THROUGH SUCH A WEBSITE SHALL BE DEEMED TO CONSTITUTE AN APPLICATION FOR AN ABSENTEE BALLOT WITHIN THE MEANING OF THIS SECTION, PROVIDED THAT THE ELECTRONIC FORM: (I) REQUESTS THE VOTER TO SUPPLY THAT INFORMATION REQUIRED BY SUBDIVI- SION THREE OF THIS SECTION; (II) CONTAINS THE LANGUAGE REQUIRED BY SUBDIVISION FIVE OF THIS SECTION; (III) PROMPTS THE VOTER, UPON COMPLETION, TO SUBMIT AN ELECTRONIC SIGNATURE SUFFICIENT TO REASONABLY GUARANTEE THE VOTER'S IDENTITY; (IV) INFORMS THE VOTER THAT SUCH SIGNATURE HAS THE SAME LEGAL EFFECT AS A SIGNATURE EXECUTED BY HAND; AND (V) DOES NOT PERMIT THE SUBMISSION OF A FORM SO INCOMPLETE AS TO RENDER THE BOARD UNABLE TO PROCESS IT THROUGH ITS NORMAL PROCEDURES. (C) IN THE CASE OF SUCH ELECTRONIC REQUESTS, THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS SHALL PROVIDE TIMELY NOTIFICATION TO THE VOTER OF ANY DEFECT IN THEIR ELECTRONIC APPLICATION. SUCH NOTIFICATION MAY BE SENT TO THE VOTER BY ELECTRONIC MAIL. (D) NOTHING IN THIS PARAGRAPH SHALL BE CONSTRUED TO ALTER THE INFORMA- TION REQUIRED ON AN ABSENTEE BALLOT APPLICATION, OR THE QUALIFICATIONS, STATUTORY OR CONSTITUTIONAL, REQUIRED TO VOTE BY ABSENTEE BALLOT. S 3. Severability. If any provision of this act or the application thereof shall for any reason be adjudged by any court of competent jurisdiction to be invalid, such judgment shall not affect, impair, or invalidate the remainder of this act, but shall be confined in its oper- ation to the provision thereof directly involved in the controversy in which such judgment shall have been rendered. S 4. This act shall take effect on the one hundred eightieth day after it shall have become a law.