A new, little-noticed state law guarantees voters can receive absentee ballots by email, but it may not be on the books for long. When legislators in May adopted a requirement that voters show photo ID at the polls, they also changed the law to ensure voters can receive absentee ballots by email if they ask for them. While voters can receive the ballots by email, they still have to return them by traditional mail or drop them off in person.
But in June, the state Senate included a provision in another bill that would repeal the requirement that municipal clerks email absentee ballots to all voters who request them. The clerks would still have to email absentee ballots to military and overseas voters, but not other voters.
Repealing the provision on emailed ballots was tucked into a bill that would move the partisan primary from September to August. Moving the primary is required to comply with a federal law meant to ensure military and overseas voters have enough time to return their ballots.
The Assembly is now considering passing the bill to move the primary. But Kevin Kennedy, the state’s top election official, said the bill was stalled for the moment because of disagreements between the two houses over how to handle emailed ballots.
Kennedy, director of the state Government Accountability Board, spent much of Wednesday meeting with lawmakers about the need to move the primary. Kennedy said his message was that lawmakers need to pass the bill this month to give clerks time to prepare for the change for 2012.
Rep. Robin Vos (R-Rochester), co-chairman of the budget-writing Joint Finance Committee, said he expected the Assembly to approve the bill soon because there is broad agreement on the need to move the primary.
But how legislators will handle the emailing of ballots remains unclear.