New York state voters will have an expanded option to use an absentee ballot to vote in the June 23 primary instead of having to physically go to a polling place, Gov. Andrew M. Cuomo announced today.
Cuomo modified existing policies for voting to specify that risk of contracting the COVID-19 virus is one of the criteria allowing use of an absentee ballot.
By expanding the availability of voting by absentee ballot, Cuomo avoids having to create an entirely new vote-by-mail system. Proposals to offer voting by mail have run into opposition in some states and from President Trump.
The issue of in-person voting during the pandemic gained prominence recently when the Wisconsin Supreme Court blocked an executive order by Gov. Tony Evers and required people to vote in person for the state’s April 7 primary. As of April 22, 19 new COVID-19 cases had been associated with poll workers or voters.
Cuomo said that all registered New York voters will be mailed an application for an absentee ballot. The application will have a postage-paid reply feature so the voter will not have to put a stamp on it when sending it back to the local board of elections.
Cuomo said he’ll be announcing a decision in about a week on whether schools in the state will be allowed to reopen for the balance of the school year. He said discussions are underway on whether to extend restrictions on evictions, foreclosures and rent increases.
Cuomo said he has seen projections that as the intensity of the outbreak diminishes, there could be a leveling off in the number of people being treated in hospitals because of the virus at about the 5,000 level. He indicated that the 5,000 level could hold at least though June.
Cuomo also brought up ongoing research that indicates the pandemic spread to New York from Europe rather than China. Researchers at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai, NYU Langone and elsewhere who have been studying the genetics of the virus have found that mutations on virus samples found in New York are primarily related to those found on virus samples from Europe, especially Italy, rather than China
Research also indicates that while the virus was spreading wildly in Italy in February, there likely already were 28,000 cases in the U.S. and 10,000 or more cases of COVID-19 active in New York. The research indicates that it was cases on the West Coast that were more likely to be directly traceable to China.
Cuomo reported that between the beginning of the spread of the virus in January to the close down of travel from Europe on March 16, approximately 13,000 flights from Europe landed at New York and New Jersey airports carrying into the area more than 2.2 million passengers.
When asked to comment on President Trump’s suggestion yesterday that the virus might be knocked out if people were injected with disinfectants or ultraviolet light was introduced into their bodies, Cuomo deferred to state Commissioner of Health Howard Zucker.
“These are chemicals you would not ingest. As we know, we make sure our kids do not go into cabinets that have any of these chemicals in them, so stay away from those products,” Zucker said.
Cuomo doubled down on his criticism of U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, who is from Kentucky, for blocking funding to states in the latest economic relief bill and McConnell’s suggestion that it would be better for states to go bankrupt than to provide federal aid for them.
Cuomo said that at the moment it appears that revenues for New York state will decline by 14%, or $13.3 billion and New York is facing a $61 billion shortfall over the current financial planning period of fiscal years 2021 through 2024.
Cuomo said he warned the state’s Congressional delegation not to pass the latest relief bill without state and local funding because the Republicans would refuse to include promised funding in the next round.
“As soon as the Senate acts, McConnell turns around and says, ‘We’re not going to do it, the states should declare bankruptcy,’” Cuomo said. “A bailout to the blue states. A bailout to the blue states. Again, the most un-American, uncharitable, ugly statement of all time. Yes, New York had more coronavirus cases than Kentucky. You know why? The flights from Europe land in New York. The flights were not landing in Kentucky. That’s why we have the coronavirus cases. That’s what the researchers now found, two months later, that the virus went from China to Europe, got on a plane and came here.”
Cuomo reported there were another 422 COVID-19 deaths yesterday, with 24 in nursing homes and 398 in hospitals. The number of new hospitalizations continued to decline, with 1,296 reported yesterday.