This is a crucial year to get out to the polls. Regardless of your stance on the current political climate, the only way to enact change is to vote for the people and legislation that you believe in. Data shows that young people, people of color, and Democrats are less likely to vote than their older, white, Republican counterparts — which leads to disproportionate representation in Albany and Washington. If you want a say in the policies that will affect your community, you have to vote in every election.
Federal primary elections take place on June 26th. Through the primaries, each political party determines their candidate for general elections. People who are registered to a political party can vote on who should run in the midterms in November. By voting in the primaries, you can help elect someone into office who you believe will listen to their constituents and fight for the issues that affect them the most.
Unfortunately, voting laws are complicated and it’s easy to miss a deadline or make a mistake that will bar you from being able to vote in the coming elections. So here is a quick guide to the rules, deadlines, and processes you should be aware of as we get closer to midterms!
Step 1: Get Registered
The first step is registering to vote. If you’re registered already, check that all of your information is up date. You can register to vote through the NY DMV here. If you’re not totally positive you’re registered, check your status
here. It’s important that your designated political party and address are up to date. If you need to update anything, you can do that through the NY DMV as well. If you change your name or address, it has to first be reflected on your state-issued ID, and then you can update your voter registration.
Please note that voting registration is public record, so people with reason to hide, such as domestic abuse victims, are able to request their voter registration be kept separate if they obtain a court order according to NY Election Law (5–508). A person can also be excused from their regular polling place and request a special ballot (NY Election Law (11–306).
Annoying Voting Rule #1: Any changes of name or address must be received 20 days before an election so the Board of Elections can process the change before polling day.
Annoying Voting Rule #2: You cannot register to vote on election day.
Annoying Voting Rule #3: Change of party forms must be received 25 days before a general election in order to vote in the next year’s primary. It’s too late to change your party for this year’s primaries, but to change your party for the 2019 voting cycle, submit your forms by October 2018.
Step 2: Find your polling place
Step two is knowing where your polling station is. Once you are registered to vote, you can find out where your polling place is here. Make sure you have a plan of how to get there on voting day and are prepared to wait if need be.
Annoying Voting Rule #4: You must go to the correct polling place or you will not be allowed to vote.
It’s also helpful to know what to expect when you arrive. Polling places are usually community spaces like churches or schools. You will be checked in by a volunteer who will ensure you are registered and at the correct location. Then you are given your voters card, ballot, and a privacy sleeve. You’ll be directed to a booth where you’ll mark your ballot with a pen. Afterwards, you give your ballot back to a volunteer who will put it into a machine to be counted and then sealed away. It’s a lot like filling out the answer sheet on a multiple choice standardized test.
Step 3: Know your representatives
Step three is knowing who represents you and what is on the ballot. When you check where your polling place is, you can also see what senate, congressional, and assembly districts you’re in. Look up who is representing you on the federal, state, and local level. A great tool for the city level is Who Represents me NYC. Through the NY Senate website you can find your Senators. New Yorkers are represented by Charles (Chuck) Schumer and Kirsten Gillibrand. Use this site to find the Congressional representative for your district.
Once you know who represents you, see what their policies are by going to their website and looking at their voting record. You can search for a representative on govtrack or on the Senateor Assembly websites to see how they have voted in the past. You can also see if they are on the ballot for re-election and who they are running against on Ballotopedia..
Especially in the primaries, it’s important to educate yourself on a candidate’s views on the issues that matter most to you because you can’t rely on simply voting with party lines. This year many new faces are running for office, so take the time to familiarize yourself with their views and policies.
Step 4: Know your rights
Although every American has the right to vote, voting rights vary from state to state. Here is what you should know as a New York voter:
-New York has no restrictive ID laws to vote. If a volunteer asks for your ID, you don’t have to give it.
-New York has no restrictive laws on documentation required to register to vote, you simply need proof of address.
-If there is a mistake and you are not on the list (this happened due to a printing error in California) ask for an affidavit ballot. This will allow you to still vote at your polling place.
-According to NY Employment laws, an employer must give employees enough time to vote if going outside of business hours isn’t an option.
Step 5: Mark your calendar
A common reason people don’t vote is that state and local elections don’t get the same media attention as national and presidential election, so they can be easy to miss. Mark your calendar for these upcoming state elections:
Federal Primaries: VOTING DAY JUNE 26
Last day to register to vote: already passed
Last day to request an absentee ballot in person: June 25
NY State Primaries: VOTING DAY SEPTEMBER 13
Last day to register to vote: August 17
Last day to request an absentee ballot in person: September 12
NY General Election: VOTING DAY NOVEMBER 6
Last day to register to vote: October 12
Last day to request an absentee ballot in person: November 5
The tangled knot we call the New York electoral system is complicated and can seem purposefully confusing, but it’s important to make your voice heard in every election possible. Don’t let frustration and doubt discourage you from practicing your right to vote and in turn protecting all of your other rights.
All GIFs via GIPHY.