On Monday, June 1, nearly 15,000 absentee ballot packets were mailed out to eligible voters. This is the first time that most of the BH-BL community will be voting by mail. To help make this process a bit easier, here are some fast facts about voting absentee ballots and a couple images of what the ballot looks like and the back of the return envelope (that must be signed in order to count.)
UPDATE: Governor extends ballot deadline
On Sunday, June 7, Governor Andrew Cuomo, in an executive order, stated that school districts in NY can accept school budget vote absentee ballots by mail until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16. The deadline for hand-delivered ballots, however, remains 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9.
If you are a qualified voter but have not yet received an absentee ballot in the mail, you may go to the district office, located at the high school, 88 Lakehill Road, to request a provisional ballot. Provisional ballots can only be given to qualified voters until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9.
Please mail your absentee ballots as soon as possible. By law, ballots received by hand after 5 p.m. on June 9, or by mail after 5 p.m. on June 16, can not be accepted and therefore can not be counted as a vote. Poll Inspectors will begin opening the received envelopes and counting ballots at 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16. This process will be live streamed via Google Meet. (The link will be available on bhbl.org on June 16.) The results will be announced once all ballots have been counted.
How – and why – is this year’s budget vote changing?
On May 1, New York Governor Andrew M. Cuomo announced that this year’s budget vote and board of election would take place exclusively by absentee ballot in June, instead of the traditional mid-May date because of concerns about the coronavirus public health crisis.
Instead of heading to the polls, voters will need to check their mailbox for an absentee ballot, fill out their ballot and return it to the school district by Tueday, June 16 at 5 p.m. Ballots must be received by the district by that date in order to be counted.
How and when will I receive my absentee ballot?
This year, the typical absentee voter qualifications and applications are being waived. BH-BL send absentee ballot packets to the US Post Office as first-class mail on Monday, June 1. Residents should receive ballots with a prepaid return envelope in mailboxes between Wednesday, June 3 and Saturday, June 6. If you are a qualified voter and did not receive a ballot, please go to the district office located at the high school, 88 Lakehill Road, on either Friday, June 5 or Monday, June 8 from 8 a.m. to 4 pm. or Tuesday, June 9 from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to pick up and complete a provisional ballot. Even though the vote date has been extended, provisional ballots can only be obtained until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9.
Am I a qualified voter?
If you are a U.S. citizen, 18 years old and have been a resident of the district for 30 days or more prior to June 9, you are a qualified voter in the 2020-21 school budget vote and board election.
I got my absentee ballot. Now what?
Once you receive your ballot, carefully read and follow the directions. Sign and date the envelope where indicated. If your envelope is unsigned, your vote can not be counted. You may mail your ballot or drop it off in the sealed and signed return envelope to the district office or any of the three elementary schools.
I made a mistake. Can I get a new ballot?
If you tear, deface or wrongly mark your ballot, contact the district clerk at 518-399-9141 immediately for instructions on how to obtain a new ballot. New ballots can only obtain until 5 p.m. on June 9.
When should I send my ballot back to the school district?
Fill out and return your ballot as soon as possible after you receive it. Ballots may be returned by mail by using the prepaid return envelope. If your ballot does not arrive at the district by 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 16, it can not be counted. The executive order also states that residents can only hand deliver their ballots until 5 p.m. on Tuesday, June 9. Hand-delivered ballots are being accepted at any of the three elementary schools or the district office, located at the high school, 88 Lakehill Rd.
What happens when the district receives my ballot?
The district will collect and hold onto all the ballots until the June 16 deadline. The results will be posted to the school’s website on or around Tuesday, June 16 or Wednesday, June 17. The district will also be live streaming the opening and counting of ballots.
Why do I have to sign my name on the envelope?
Just as voters are asked to sign a register/polling book when they vote in person, voters using absentee ballots are asked to provide a signature. This signature constitutes an affidavit — you are attesting to your identity as a voter who is qualified to cast a ballot in this election. This information is recorded on the district’s voter rolls — a list of names of all the people who cast ballots.
Is my vote still confidential?
Yes. While your name will be registered on the district’s voter rolls, your ballot will be separated from the envelope that bears your name, return address, or other personally identifiable information before the folded ballot is and handed over to a different person who unfolds the ballot before handing it over to a different person who will insert the ballot into the voting machines provided to the district by the Schenectady County Board of Elections.
Is the absentee voting process different due to the COVID-19 pandemic?
The district has prepared, sent out and counted absentee ballots to qualified voters for many years, and will follow that same procedure this year, only on a larger scale. This year, all voting is being done via absentee ballot, whereas in previous years, most voters cast ballots in person.
Is the process open to the public?
The annual school budget vote is an official public meeting of the district, and as such, it is open to the public. The opening and counting of ballots will be live streamed. There will be four voting machines provided to the district by the Schenectady County Board of Elections. The district will set up four different stations where board-appointed Poll Inspection Workers will be socially distanced and wearing masks. One worker will open the envelope and place it in a separate box then hand the ballot to another worker six feet away. The worker handling the ballot will open it and smooth it out in preparation for handing it to the next worker who will insert the ballot into the voting machine.
How can my vote be confidential if the count is open to the public?
Since ballots are separated from personally identifiable information before they are counted, the public counting process is anonymous. No one viewing the counting of ballots will be able to match a voter’s personally identifiable information with their specific ballot.
When will the results of the budget vote and board election become available to the public?
BH-BL’s Chief Election Officer will begin the counting process on at 5 p.m. on June 16. The results will be available as soon as all ballots have been counted.
Whom do I contact if I have any additional questions?
Please contact District Clerk Tara Mitchell at firstname.lastname@example.org or 518-399-9141.