Senior citizens and those confined to residential care facilities or at home due to quarantine will be the ones most likely to benefit from changes to voting procedures in New York that help protect people from contracting the coronavirus.
And while the state has taken significant steps toward safety in the past couple of weeks - most importantly by allowing fear of contracting or spreading covid to be a legal excuse for obtaining an absentee ballot and allowing voters to apply for absentee ballots now instead of waiting until October - there’s still more the state can do two months before Election Day to expand safe voter access to the polls.
On Monday, AARP New York issued a new list of initiatives the state could take to make voting even easier and safer for the state’s seniors and infirm.
One provision that could help eliminate confusion among older voters and, more importantly, ensure that their votes are counted calls for the state to provide pre-addressed, postage-paid envelopes for all absentee ballot applications and ballots. Voting should be free, especially for people on fixed incomes.
Absentee voting is really the most important way to ensure that as many seniors can vote as possible.
We don’t want seniors leaving their healthcare facilities or their homes unnecessarily. We also don’t want nursing homes or other health facilities used as polling places, as they often are, because we want to limit the number of people exposing residents to the virus.
For those seniors willing to venture out to vote, AARP wants the state to send ballot applications to all voters with detailed instructions on all the options they have for voting.
AARP also wants the state to expand its existing early voting periods to reduce crowding at polling places and exposure to covid. Most local counties in our area already offer nine early voting dates, including the two weekends before Election Day. (Check with your county board for times and locations.) If counties could do more dates or expand the times of voting on existing dates, they should.
Other ideas including taking appointments for early voting and setting up curbside voting, which would allow the elderly and disabled to vote without leaving their cars. Several states already offer it, so it’s not uncommon or difficult.
The election is rapidly coming up. It’s just two months from today.
Making sure being elderly, disabled or homebound doesn’t prevent one from voting should be a top state priority.