Following a pandemic primary marred by voter disenfranchisement in New York City, officials with the state Board of Elections are promising to improve its early voting and mail-in absentee voting process for the November 3rd election. But in order to fix the problems that plagued the primary, officials say the BOE needs $50 million, which it doesn't have.

The state BOE will also have to contend with processing an estimated 5 million absentee ballots this general election, four times the total number of ballots counted during the June primary by all 63 county boards of elections. Officials said the increase in absentee ballots will likely delay certified results, particularly this year with a presidential election that is expected to produce greater participation in the midst of a pandemic that has many voters wary of voting in person.

Those were some of the findings from a joint oversight hearing on Tuesday morning exploring how the November general election will be managed. While COVID-19 infection rates have leveled off in recent weeks, legislators hope election officials will be prepared for any sudden spikes that could threaten the public's ability to vote.

Yet the additional millions of dollars needed to carry out a successful election in a pandemic have not been allocated, according to Todd Valentine, co-executive director with the State Board of Elections.

"If you increase the number of voters, you increase the number of ballots, you increase the number of postage, you increase the number of people who have to handle the ballots; those figures are not out of the realm of reality," said Valentine, adding that it usually costs $25 million to process a general election.

The hearing comes amid a package of election reform bills that have yet to be signed by Governor Andrew Cuomo even as the clock ticks down to the November election. Several bills include clarifying the term "temporary illness" on an absentee ballot to include the risk to spreading or contracting COVID-19, expanding the time voters can apply for an absentee ballot to 30 days before an election so that a ballot can delivered in time, and instituting a so-called "curing provision" that would allow voters to correct their ballot after its been reviewed by a board of election worker.

Roughly 23% of absentee ballots cast by NYC voters, which translates to around 92,000, were deemed invalid in the June primary. Michael Ryan, executive director of the New York City Board of Elections, blamed voters for improperly filling out their absentee ballots, but also the U.S. Postal Service for not placing a postmark on an absentee ballot to indicate whether a ballot had been sent out in time.

Ryan added there are now talks with the state Board of Elections to improve the look of the absentee ballot. One idea pitched was updating the ballot so the section needed to obtain a signature is easily identifiable. There's also a social media campaign to highlight the number of ways New Yorkers can vote.

Voters can also drop off their sealed absentee ballots (and their friends' or family members' absentee ballots) at drop boxes placed at polling sites. State Senator George Borrello asked whether the city BOE is prepared to handle such a high number of absentee ballots while also preventing so-called ballot harvesting, a dirty trick in which political operatives pick up absentee ballots and don't turn them over to a BOE office.

"Without revealing everything that we do behind the scenes, because I'm always reticent to discuss security... we have a tracking system in place where we monitor activity of absentee ballot applications, and if anything is alarming we bring it to the appropriate authority's attention. And we take appropriate action within the limits of our authority as well," said Ryan.