Here’s what you need to know to vote in New York this election

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Voting in Jackson Heights

In case you haven’t heard, a global pandemic has forced democracy to adapt in a number of ways and your best bet of having your voice heard in the Nov. 3 presidential election may come with a number of obstacles this time around.

For New York, as in other places, this has come in form of absentee ballots being made available to anyone who requests to cast their vote by mail in order to avoid other humans who may be carrying COVID-19 and has come with a variety of dysfunctions as seen in the June 23 primaries.

So consider this article an explainer of how to cast your vote in a way that guarantees it will count.

Dates to remember

If you are not registered to vote, you will need to do so by Oct. 9. If you are registered to vote and wish to submit a mail-in ballot, you must file a request by Oct. 27.

Once you receive a ballot, you’re encouraged to fill it out right away and then mail it back right away, or drop it off at Board of Elections offices citywide before Oct. 24.

Recent cutbacks at the U.S. Postal Service, however, have caused delays in mailing, so keep this in mind if you’re opting for a mail-in ballot. The Board of Elections will accept any mail-in ballot postmarked by Nov. 3.

Early voting begins on Oct. 24 and runs through Nov. 1. During this period, those who opted for mail-in ballots can drop them off at their nearest early voting site. Anyone who opted not to mail-in their vote can visit their designated early voting site and cast their vote in person.

Nov. 3, of course, is Election Day, and polling places will be open citywide. If you haven’t voted by mail or voted early, you can vote in person at your designated polling place. If you received a mail-in ballot and haven’t yet returned it, you can also bring it to your local polling place and submit it there.

Absentee ballots

COVID-19 made the need for absentee voting critical in that it reduced crowding at polling locations and prior to the pandemic, a New Yorker had to meet certain criteria qualify for a mail-in ballot such as being absent from the five boroughs or the state on election day.

Governor Andrew Cuomo opened the floodgates to mail-in voting in April when he signed an executive order making it available to all for the June 23 primary. That order was eventually extended through the Nov. 3 election.

The deadline to apply for an absentee ballot online is Oct. 27 and official last day to have your envelope postmarked is on Nov. 3. Another surefire way of being counted is by dropping off your ballot at a polling site or your county BOE office.

See the full list of deadlines and the application portal here. The state website also has its own portal to apply that can be found at this link.

One thing to remember is that your absentee ballot could come with the words “Official absentee military ballot,” regardless of whether or not you serve in the military.

The New York City Campaign Finance Board explains that normally, these ballots would come as “absentee/military.” The slash may have been included in the June primary ballots but do not exist this time around, though the CFB assures voters that this is just a design change; they are perfectly valid for civvies.

If your ballot has any errors in regard to your personal information, which could be directly on the envelope, contact the BOE by calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC or by emailing them at apply4absentee@boe.nyc.

Early voting

Voters can show up early to vote, just find one of the many poll sites that will be open from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1.

A full list of early voting sites in the five boroughs are listed on the New York City BOE page and can be accessed here or you can search for your early voting polls site here.

Polling site safety

The Board of Elections will continue to take great precautions at each polling site, both for early voting and on Election Day, to protect in-person voters and ballot workers from contracting COVID-19.

All in-person voters will be required to wear masks and practice social distancing when they show up at their polling places. All staff on duty must also abide by these rules. Hand sanitizer will be available at each polling location, and voting booths will be socially distanced and regularly cleaned.

Security of mail-in voting

Despite what some might have you believe, mail-in voting is safe and secure. Other states have been voting by mail for years, and there have been no reports of widespread fraud of any sort. The president, himself, requested a mail-in ballot for this election. 

If you requested an absentee ballot by mail, your options are to return the completed ballot by mail, or drop them off at the local Board of Elections office, your local early voting location during the early voting period, or at your local polling place on Election Day. No one can vote more than once, as no one can receive more than one ballot.

The Board of Elections is tracking each ballot sent by mail. You can check the status of your ballot online at their website, nycabsentee.com/tracking.

Board of Elections offices

If you receive a mail-in absentee ballot and you wish to drop the completed ballot off before early voting or election day, as noted, you can bring them to your local Board of Elections office weekdays during business hours. Here are the locations:

  • Bronx — 1780 Grand Concourse, 5th Floor. 718-299-9017
  • Brooklyn — 345 Adams St., 4th Floor. 718-797-8800.
  • Manhattan — 200 Varick St., 10th Floor. 212-886-2100.
  • Queens — 118-35 Queens Blvd., Forest Hills. 718-730-6730.
  • Staten Island — 1 Edgewater Plaza, 4th Floor. 718-876-0079.

With reporting by Robert Pozarycki