Privacy Concerns Over the Casting of Absentee Ballots
By executive order, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed that all School District Budget votes and School Board elections be conducted in June via absentee ballot only. As voters began receiving their ballots in the mail last week, concerns about privacy arose. Some residents have expressed concern that the people handling the ballots would be able to find out how they voted. We would like to assure you that there is no need to worry.
Highland’s District Clerk, Lisa Cerniglia, explained that voter privacy is protected under New York Education Law and that the district has developed a system to ensure ballots are confidential. “Election inspectors will have no way of knowing whose ballots they are viewing,” assures Cerniglia. “Once the oath envelope –which is labeled with the voter’s name and address– is opened, the ballot will be removed and placed in a separate bin while still folded. When the election inspectors then go to count the ballots, there will be no way of knowing whose ballot is being reviewed.”
How Will the Absentee Voting Process Work?
Absentee ballots include a space to vote yes or no on the school budget, school bus proposition, the election of two members to the Board of Education, and the election of a member to the Highland Public Library Board.
Once a voter fills out the ballot, he or she then folds the ballot and tucks it inside the “Oath envelope” and seals it shut. The Oath envelope includes a short form printed on it for the voter to write his or her name, address, county, and school district. The back of the Oath envelope has the “Statement of Absentee Voter,” which the voter must date and sign.
On June 9, the District Clerk will inspect the sealed Oath envelopes and verify that each has been filled out properly. Oath envelopes will also be verified against Ulster County Board of Elections poll books to ensure the voter is an eligible voter.
Voters must be sure to provide their signature on the Oath envelope, legibly print their name, and only return one ballot. Once the District Clerk validates that these criteria have been met on the sealed Oath envelope, they are placed in the assigned box.
This box is then moved to a different station, where Election inspectors will open the Oath envelopes, and as the Education Law requires, “withdraw” the ballot, thereby separating it from personally identifiable information. The ballot, which remains folded and private, is then deposited into a different ballot box.
That ballot box then goes to the next station, where election inspectors finally unfold the anonymous vote to record it.
How to Vote
Governor Cuomo has ordered that all votes must be received by 5 PM on June 9 in order to be counted (note, the ballot must be received, not postmarked by June 9).
Due to expected pandemic-related delays within the postal system, voters are strongly encouraged to mail their ballots as soon as possible. Votes received after 5 PM on June 9 cannot be counted.
Concern over possible mailing delays has prompted further steps to ensure voters are able to engage in the voting process. A supervised, ballot drop-off box will be made available at the Highland Middle School entrance, located at 71 Main Street, Highland, from 8 AM to 5 PM on Monday, June 8 and Tuesday, June 9.
For more information on the vote, please read more here.