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Lentol calls for absentee primary due to coronavirus pandemic

March 19, 2020 Paula Katinas
It was easy to find the early voting site in Downtown Brooklyn on Monday. Red, white and blue Vote NYC arrows are stuck onto the sidewalks surrounding the Urban Assembly School for Law and Justice. Eagle photo by Mary Frost

The novel coronavirus pandemic could upend the Democratic Presidential Primary set to take place in New York State next month.

If the contest is held as scheduled on April 28, it should be conducted by absentee ballot only with no in-person voting, according to Assemblymember Joseph Lentol.

Lentol, a Democrat representing Williamsburg, Greenpoint and other areas of North Brooklyn, introduced legislation this week for New York State to implement an absentee ballot primary system on an emergency basis to protect New Yorkers from possible exposure to the coronavirus.

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“The COVID-19 virus is spread mainly from person-to-person and the single most effective way to prevent and slow the further transmission of the virus is to avoid close contact and stay at least six feet away. It is not wise to conduct the 2020 presidential primary in person, especially when we can conduct it through emergency absentee ballot safely and securely,” Lentol said.

State Assemblymember Joe Lentol. Photo: Joe Lentol’s office

Former Vice President Joe Biden and Vermont Senator and Brooklyn native Bernie Sanders are expected to face each other in the Democratic Primary for president. There is no primary challenger on the Republican side, giving President Donald Trump a clear path to win his party’s nomination to run for a second term.

It’s unclear, however, if the April 28 primary will go on as planned.

To date, five states: Georgia, Kentucky, Louisiana, Maryland Ohio, have opted to postpone their primaries.

Maryland was the latest state to move its primary. Gov. Larry Hogan issued an order earlier this week moving the contest from April to June 2.


Lentol, who was first elected to the State Assembly in 1972, said he would rather see a change in the voting method rather than a postponement of the primary.

“Instead of sending New Yorkers to the polls or postponing the presidential primary, adopting an emergency absentee ballot measure allows the election to move forward and keeps our democracy resilient,” he said.


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