Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver, Election Law Committee Chair Joan Millman and Veterans’ Affairs Committee Chair Phil Ramos announced the passage of legislation that would enable more voters – particularly military personnel – to participate in special elections.

 The bill (A.5698) would provide boards of elections additional time prior to special elections, for election officials to finalize and transmit military ballots. The legislation, which is a governor’s program bill, is being sponsored by Millman and Ramos.

"When a vacancy occurs, it is crucial that the residents of that area are represented again as quickly as possible," said Silver (D-Manhattan). "At the same time, it is important to expand the timeline to accommodate the participation of the men and women of the military."

"Extending the time for special elections will help the men and women serving in the armed forces to participate in special elections while stationed far from home, and ensure their voices are heard," said Millman (D-Brooklyn). "We cannot let our citizens become disenfranchised during their military service."

"We must ensure that the brave men and women serving our country overseas have their voice heard in special elections," said Ramos (D-Central Islip). "This legislation protects the integrity of the election process and ensures every ballot – including military ones - are counted."

The measure would:

  • Increase the period between the announcement of a special election and the date of that election to between seventy and eighty days from its announcement;
  • Increase the time by which the state Board of Elections must certify candidate information to 53 days before a special election; 
  • Increase the time by which county boards of elections must determine candidates to be included on a ballot to 53 days before a special election; 
  • Provide that each county board of elections must transmit election results to the state within 20 days after a special election; and •
  • Provide that military ballots be transmitted no later than 45 days before a special election.

This measure builds on the Assembly’s 2009 and 2010 legislative packages that have included a provision that made permanent certain allowances for military and overseas absentee ballots. In addition, they allowed military voters to sign their ballot envelopes before a witness rather than obtain a postmark, and extended the time frame for receipt of military ballots from 7 to 13 days after a general election. Previous legislation also extended the time frame for special election ballots, and allowed military and overseas ballots to be requested by fax or e-email.