The Democratic-led Assembly on Tuesday approved two bills meant to adjust the petitioning process for access to the ballot amid the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. 

Petitioning under normal circumstances requires close contact with registered voters and candidates in the coming weeks face the prospect of being face to face with to collect signatures from many of them.

“Ensuring our elections are free and fair and safe is critical to our democracy,” Speaker Carl Heastie said. “These bills will help make it safer for candidates, those conducting elections and for the people of New York to participate in the democratic process. The Assembly Majority will keep working to ensure our election laws allow New Yorkers to fully and safely participate in the electoral process.”

One bill would reduce the number of signatures required for an independent nomination petition to 50% for elections held in 2021. The measure would expire at the end of December this year. 

Gov. Andrew Cuomo last month approved a similar measure passed in both houses of the Legislature that went further, reducing the number of signatures needed by 70%. 

Another bill would remove the option to file an opportunity to ballot petition for the June 2021 primary in order to avoid unnecessary petitioning as well as the need for local elections officials in the state to hold a primary, including nine days of early voting, for a primary with only one candidate. 

“COVID-19 has changed every aspect of our lives,” Assemblywoman Latrice Walker said. “We must also adjust election law to reflect the reality of living during a pandemic, and the need to maintain social distance while still keeping all necessary elements accessible and efficient. These changes to petitioning and allowing virtual designations and nominations will help us do that.”