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Tkaczyk proposes election reforms

Senator’s court battle spurs bills efforts to change ballot requirements

State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D- Duanesburg, outlined two new bills on Wednesday, May 1, she is proposing to simplify election laws and prevent lengthy legal battles following an election.

State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D- Duanesburg, outlined two new bills on Wednesday, May 1, she is proposing to simplify election laws and prevent lengthy legal battles following an election. Photo by John Purcell.

— Democrat Kevin Cahill of Ulster County is sponsoring the two bills in the Assembly and said it’s time to revise election laws. He said lawyers battling in court shouldn’t be necessary “to make democracy happen.”

“In the case of Ulster County … ballots were challenged for poll workers,” Cahill said, “not because the poll workers did anything they were told not to do by authorities but because of the hyper-technicality of New York state law.”

Election inspectors are given a special ballot that cannot be distributed more than two weeks before the election. Several election inspectors had their ballots initially thrown out because they were submitted more than two weeks before Election Day.

Ashley Dittus, an Ulster County Board of Elections employee, said she was “shocked” to discover her ballot was disqualified because she submitted it early.

“I was given my ballot about a month before the election and I already knew who I wanted to vote for, so I voted the same day,” Dittus said. “Even though I work at the Board of Elections I wasn’t privy to this very minute provision.”

Dittus said her ballot was counted after the Appellate Court overturned the initial ruling.

Tkaczyk said though her legal challenges are now case law, her bills are still necessary. She is optimistic they will become law. There are 20 co-sponsors of the legislation in the Senate.

There are several others bills sponsored by Tkaczyk targeting various election laws, though she did not discuss them Wednesday.

One bill would require local Boards of Elections to notify voters when their ballot is received and if it was accepted or rejected. A rejection would have to be explained and an opportunity given to correct the ballot.

Other proposals would change annual report requirements for Boards of Elections, allowing poll clerks to work a half-day shift, providing an amount of affidavit ballots totaling at least 15 percent of the last voter turnout for the polling site and providing an adequate number of pens at each site.

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