BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Erie County Board of Elections said it will issue absentee ballots for voters on April 28 in response to concerns about coronavirus, also known as COVID-19.

The decision was made with "voters who might otherwise be reluctant to report to polling places amidst worries of a pandemic" in mind. Voters next month will weigh in on presidential primaries and on the 27th Congressional District, recently vacated by Chris Collins.

"We want to reduce the chances for transmission while making sure people aren't disenfranchised because of fears of infection," GOP elections commissioner Ralph Mohr said in a statement.

Erie County voters would be able to request, receive and submit an absentee ballot by mail. Voters would need to check a new box on the ballot that indicates a public health emergency as the reason for their request.

"This is not about panic. This is about prudence and preparation," Democratic elections commissioner Jeremy Zellner said.

The Erie County Board of Elections said it will be following new guidelines to keep voting materials and machines clean, for those who do visit their polling locations.

New York State voters can cite illness as a legitimate reason for requesting an absentee ballot, and the commissioners say the state of emergency surrounding coronavirus should apply next month.

Voters can download the absentee ballot request form on the Erie County elections website. You can also request one by phone at (716) 858-8891.

Ballots must be postmarked by April 21.

New York State is looking at potentially doing the entire election by mail. Officials are looking at whether the law allows it already, or if the legislature will have to pass a new law.

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