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Commissioners Vote In Favor Of Postponing Primary

Both Chautauqua County election commissioners have voted in favor of postponing the state’s Democratic Presidential Primary from April until June because of the novel coronavirus, COVID-19, outbreak.

On Wednesday, Norm Green, Chautauqua County Democratic Election Commissioner said both Brian Abram, Chautauqua County Republican Election Commissioner, and himself voted in favor of postponing the Presidential Primary Election as members of the New York State Election Commissioners’ Association.

Green said the proposal was nearly unanimous among the 124 members of the association representing 62 counties in the state.

“Only a couple people were concerned about a slippery slop if there was a change,” Green said. “We (Abram and Green) feel strongly that it should be rolled into June.”

The association has proposed having the Presidential Primary June 23 instead of the currently scheduled April 28. Green said the proposed June date works because that is when the state and local primary elections are already scheduled to happen.

Green said he doesn’t know if Gov. Andrew Cuomo will make the proposed change.

He said most likely the governor is waiting to be within 30 days of the scheduled April 28 Presidential Primary Election date to make the possible change. Green added that it’s his understanding the governor can only make emergency changes within a 30-day window during the coronavirus outbreak.

“The governor has spoken about it. He is aware of the issue,” Green said.

The state Election Commissioners’ Association also proposed an executive order or legislative action to amend state election law to allow for absentee balloting during all times of declared state of emergency due to infections disease or pandemic.

Green said county residents who want to vote from the safety of their homes should apply for an absentee ballot. According to election law, absentee ballots are normally for residents who won’t be in the county on Election Day, who have a disability or who are sick.

“We are encouraging people to apply for absentee ballots. We have already received ballots back,” he said.

The state association also proposed for action to allow local Board of Elections to have latitude to consolidate polling places and election districts during primary and special elections.

Green said he is in favor of the proposal because some polling places in the county have already notified the county Board of Elections that they will not be open because of the pandemic. Also, he said election officials are worried about the number of poll workers that are senior citizens. He added that statewide 60% of election poll workers are over the age of 70.

“We’re concerned about our senior citizen population of election inspectors and seniors shouldn’t be out during this pandemic,” Green said.

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