Hearing from constituents fearful that mail-in ballots may not arrive in time for voting on Tuesday, June 9, a state legislator is seeking to push school district and library elections back a week to Tuesday, June 16.
Sen. Pete Harckham explained Tuesday, June 2, that the COVID-19 pandemic has disrupted “a number of civic functions this spring, including school elections and votes.”
Harckham, who represents the 40th District, said his proposed legislation is necessary because dozens of school districts across the state, including Mahopac's and Brewster's in Putnam County, have had “serious problems” getting their ballot materials in time.
The legislation is being co-sponsored in the state Assembly by Assemblyman Jonathan G. Jacobson, D-Newburgh, who represents the 104th District.
State Assemblyman Kevin Byrne, R-Mahopac, who represents the 94th District, which includes Mahopac and Brewster, said Tuesday that while he had not “yet been given the opportunity to read” the proposed legislation, he had spoken with Harckham and does support it “in concept.”
“We must ensure that citizens residing at these affected school districts are not disenfranchised of their right to vote,” Byrne said in a statement.
He added that he believed that the state should allow “all affected school district mail in ballots postmarked up and till the day of the election to be counted.”
“This modification could be made preferably through legislation, but if not then through amending the governor's existing executive order," Byrne said.
On Saturday, May 9, Mahopac schools Superintendent Anthony DiCarlo posted a letter on the district’s website reminding residents that Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo had required the annual budget vote and election to be held via absentee ballot only.
Mahopac then hired a vendor to print and mail the ballots.
On Friday, May 29, the district was told that that vendor had not received a crucial shipment of envelopes.
That meant, with the clock ticking down fast, it was forced to make alternate arrangements, it said in a Saturday, May 30 post on its website.
DiCarlo said Mahopac planned to deliver ballots to all registered voters’ mailboxes Wednesday, June 3, through Saturday, June 6.
Completed ballots can be dropped off at the District Office’s lockbox from June 3 through June 8, he said.
On June 9, completed ballots can be dropped off at the Mahopac High School’s Guard House between 6 a.m. and 5 p.m.
They must be received by 5 p.m. on June 9.
Mahopac and Brewster have been trying to get the word out about the ballot mess through local newspapers, including the Mahopac News, social media, and its cable TV channel.
School districts have also been letting local organizations, especially those that deal with senior citizen issues, about the need to shift gears.
Because of the pandemic situation, “the mail-in absentee ballot option caused a perfect storm of logistical issues,” Harckham said Tuesday.
Considering that Mahopac and Brewster each have 10,000 ballots to get into voters’ hands, even their “extraordinary efforts” can’t “guarantee that all votes” will be tallied in time, Harckham said.
There are a number of public libraries affiliated with school districts that have their board and budget votes set for June 9 as well.
Of course, this could all change again if legislation to push back the vote passes in Albany.
“It depends on how fast we (lawmakers) can get this done,” the senator said.
The Legislature got back in session last week, meaning that many lawmakers are practicing social distancing and wearing masks.
Most are forgoing heading to the chamber itself, instead voting remotely from their offices.
It is the first time they’ve been in Albany since the coronavirus pandemic struck.
Not surprisingly, there is a lot on their plates at the moment.
Things would go more smoothly if only the governor would amend his executive order, Harckham added. However, Cuomo has reportedly declined to move the deadline back again.
Halston Media reached out to the governor’s spokesman, Jason Conwall, Tuesday and is waiting for a response.
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