Attorney General James Advises New York Voters With Absentee Ballot Errors

Per New York State Law, BOE Must Give Reason for Ballot Rejections

For Questions and Concerns Regarding Errors With Your Absentee Ballot,
Contact the Office of the Attorney General at 1-800-771-7755

NEW YORK – Attorney General Letitia James today issued an alert to New Yorkers who voted by absentee ballot to inform them of their rights under New York state’s new “notice and cure” law. The law states that voters must be notified if their absentee ballots are being rejected for certain errors they might have made in filling out their ballots, such as the voter forgot to sign the oath envelope (which is the envelope that the completed ballot goes inside, also referred to as the “affirmation” envelope, or “security” envelope). The voter must also be given an opportunity to fix such errors within an allotted time period.

“Voting is a cornerstone of our democracy,” said Attorney General James. “Every voter has a right to have their voice heard, and it’s important that they are empowered with information to make sure their voice is heard. With the record number of first-time absentee ballots, we hope this information proves useful to voters who may need to fix an inadvertent error with their ballot.”

Local Boards of Election must notify voters as soon as possible if their ballots have deficiencies, which would need to be corrected, or “cured,” in order for their vote to count. Among other clerical-type errors, deficiencies could include:

  • The oath envelope is unsigned;
  • The oath envelope signature does not appear to correspond to the signature on file;
  • The oath envelope does not have the required witness to a mark where voter assistance is provided;
  • The ballot is returned in the return envelope either with an unsealed oath envelope, or completely without an oath envelope;   
  • The oath envelope is signed by the person that has provided voter assistance, but is not signed or marked by the voter; or  
  • The voter has failed to sign the oath envelope and someone else has signed the oath envelope (i.e. power of attorney). 

Under the legislature’s amendments to the Election Law, as modified by Governor Cuomo’s Executive Order 202.58, the Boards of Election are encouraged to count ballots “as soon as possible.” However, it is likely that people will receive these notices of deficiencies after Election Day, given the record number of absentee ballots to be processed this year. If voters received a notice of deficiency between October 27 and November 3, they have seven days to address the issue to ensure their vote is counted. If the ballot is received on or after November 3, voters have five days from when they receive notification by email, mail, or phone to cure any deficiencies.

Attorney General James encourages voters with questions or concerns about the absentee ballot notice and cure process to call the office’s Hotline at 1-800-771-7755, submit complaints online, or email election.hotline@ag.ny.gov. 

In addition to providing this guidance to voters, Attorney General James also issued guidance to Board of Election offices and law enforcement entities throughout the state to protect New Yorkers from voter intimidation on, and before, Election Day in October.

The office will receive and respond to election complaints relating to any of the statutes that the office enforces. The Attorney General’s Election Day Hotline and voter protection efforts are being coordinated by Assistant Attorneys General Conor Duffy, Nancy Trasande, and Lindsay McKenzie of the Civil Rights Bureau and led by Bureau Chief Jessica Clarke. The Civil Rights Bureau is part of the Division for Social Justice, led by Chief Deputy Attorney General Meghan Faux, and under the oversight of First Deputy Attorney General Jennifer Levy.

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