SEPTEMBER ARRIVED WITHOUT PROPER NOTICE. Blame the heat, the election, the virus. The trees in this part of Ghent remained solid green until Sunday, when a maple crowded alongside Route 66 waved a small orange flag. Two day’s warning?
Suddenly it’s time to plan. Time to think about doing something sooner, not later, about furnaces, tires, how we can make it through the winter. Add to the list: How will you vote?
This question of “how” is not the same as asking: “Who” gets your vote. And if you were surprised by how swiftly September showed up, just wait until you see how soon November gets here. November 3, to be exact. The General Election.
Voters can still go to their polling places on Election Day, mark their ballots and scan them. But you don’t have to wait for that one day. New York State has early voting. It starts Saturday, October 24 and continues through Sunday, November 1. The only catch is that all early voting takes place only at the county office building, 401 State Street, Hudson.
If you do decide to vote in person either early or on Election Day, wear a mask that covers your mouth and nose. No matter what the president says, Covid-19 will still be with us in some form or another up to and through Election Day.
But oddly enough the pandemic has broadened the options for how registered voters in the State of New York can cast their ballots by mail.
Any eligible voter in this state can now obtain an absentee ballot, mark his or her choices and send it back to the Columbia County Board of Elections through the U.S. Postal Service or by dropping off the ballot at the Board of Elections. You can even send your ballot application (but not your ballot) by email.
It used to be that absentee ballots went only to voters who were ill or disabled or who had to travel outside of the county on Election Day. That has changed. Here’s what the Board of Elections says on its website: “For the November 3 General Election, EVERY VOTER may choose to vote by absentee ballot on the basis of ‘Temporary illness or physical disability.’ You do not need to be sick or infected with the Covid-19 virus. The risk of exposure to Covid-19 has been designated a sufficient basis to vote by absentee ballot. (Updated August 24, 2020)”
You don’t need to claim an “excuse” to vote by mail. It is your right for at least as long as Covid-19 continues to stalk us all.
If you do want to vote by absentee ballot you have to fill out a short application form. You can find it on the Columbia County Board of elections website: columbiacountyny.com/elections/
If you need help, call the Board of Elections 518-828-3115. Or ask your local library to assist you.
Are you worried about fraud if you send you ballot by mail? Don’t. The best research shows that fears of fraud are “baseless.” We’re safer if we vote by mail and our vote is in the secure hands of people who handle sensitive mail every day.
But ballots cast through the mail do face a growing threat. Earlier this year the president named a big campaign donor, Louis DeJoy, postmaster general. He now runs the U.S. Postal Service. Since his appointment, Mr. DeJoy has taken steps that have slowed or otherwise interfered with the delivery of mail. Congress members believe he may have withheld evidence of the damage. He says his changes promote efficiency and it’s possible some changes do. But how come the changes are being made just before an election in which voting by mail could improve turnout and save lives?
The president repeatedly says that voting by mail leads to voter fraud, though he cites no evidence (because there is none), He shows no concern for the health of the poll workers and citizens who will vote in person.