Advocacy Update: Governor Signs School Absentee Ballot Legislation

April 27, 2021

Yesterday evening, Governor Cuomo signed S.5545 (Mayer)/A.6475 (Bronson) into law as Chapter 60. The legislation, which takes effect immediately, officially includes COVID-19 under the definition of illness for the purposes of requesting and receiving an absentee ballot for school district and BOCES elections. Voters are required to submit an absentee ballot application, as they would in any normal year. The legislation takes effect immediately and is in place for 2021 only.

NYSSBA advocated aggressively for this legislation over the past few months, working closely with the Senate, Assembly and Governor's office, in order to proactively avoid many of the challenges associated with conducting the school board election and budget vote in 2020.

This method of issuing absentee ballots to those concerned about COVID-19 puts school district elections on par with all other non-school district elections conducted in New York State in 2021. Last summer, legislation was enacted to add COVID-19 to the definition of illness for all non-school district elections. While that legislation did not apply to school districts, the language in S.5545/A.6475 was modeled after it.

In December 2020, Governor Cuomo issued Executive Order 202.81, which states that applicable sections of state Education Law are temporarily suspended to "include the potential for contraction of the virus that causes COVID-19 as an illness for purposes of request or receipt of an absentee ballot." The order has been continually extended since its original issuance and currently remains in place. The legislation signed into law by the Governor yesterday formalizes that change by amending current law, thus eliminating the reliance on continuation of the Executive Order.

NYSSBA's Governmental Relations team will continue to report on these and other issues.  For more information, visit our Key Issues Page

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