POLITICAL ARENA

Ballot tracking becomes law

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It’s easy to track packages from Amazon and other places, so why not track something a little more important to democracy — your ballot.

A new bill signed into law by Gov. Kathy Hochul on Dec. 22 will do just that, creating a statewide online ballot tracking system following a system already in effect in New York City.

“It should be as easy and stress-free as possible for New Yorkers to vote, and absentee voting is an increasingly popular and convenient method for eligible voters to cast their ballots,” said the bill’s author, Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz, in a release. “This new law will help all New Yorkers know exactly where their absentee ballot is in the process, and will help inform decisions about whether they need to take additional action to ensure that their vote is received and counted.”

When it goes into effect in March, the bill would require local elections boards to provide a receipt of a voter’s application for an absentee ballot, show whether it was approved or rejected, and provide a date of when the absentee ballot was sent.

Once their ballot is cast, a voter will then get a receipt from the elections board, learn if there were any issues or problems that could lead the ballot to be disqualified, and finally provide whether the ballot was counted or rejected.

Barring any new laws or extensions of COVID-era expansions, the eligibility for absentee ballots remains quite restrictive, especially after a state constitutional amendment referendum loosening those restrictions failed at the state level last November.

 

COVID-19 tests coming to schools

In a rather unorthodox sense of the word, gifts are coming — not from a jolly man in a red suit and reindeer-pulled sleigh, but from Albany. More specifically, Gov. Kathy Hochul’s office.

City schools will be gifted with a million COVID-19 test kits, which are now in considerably high demand as the omicron variant surges.

“We’ve been ordering tests,” the governor told reporters Monday. “Just to make sure there’s no confusion, when we say a million testing kits, there’s two tests in every kit.”

Planes loaded with test kits were expected to arrive as early as Tuesday, eventually making their way to schools throughout the Boards of Cooperative Educational Services, or BOCES. How many tests each school receives will be based on case rate by each educational district.

High-priority schools could see test kits arrive as soon as the winter break ends.

It’s not immediately clear how many of the 2 million tests will arrive at schools in this part of the Bronx, but at least three of its public school campuses were under partial quarantine as of Tuesday — P.S. 7 Milton Fein School, P.S. 37 Multiple Intelligence School, and the nearby Marble Hill High School for International Studies at the John F. Kennedy Campus.

They joined a few others that just ended quarantines after Christmas, including P.S. 81 Robert J. Christen School, Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, and P.S. 95 Sheila Mencher.

How the tests are allocated to students depends on the individual educational districts themselves, Hochul said. It could look like sending tests home with children after the first day, or using them to conduct tests again on-campus.

“We will leave that up to them,” the governor said. “But it is our responsibility to help them with their amassing the necessary number they require.”

COVID-19 cases have jumped from under 2 percent positivity among those tested over the summer to rates above 15 percent in the Bronx as of Monday, according to Hochul. Hospitalizations have grown, but not at the same pace.

— Sarah Belle Lin

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