In the middle of a Pandemic, the last thing you may be thinking about is voting (or maybe, because of the Pandemic, you’ve been counting down the days). Regardless, the voting process is something that for decades has remained pretty constant. If you are in the county and state where you are registered to vote, you head to your polling site on the day of the primary, or national elections. And while, to an extent, this still stands – the ongoing health concerns has expanded this process and inadvertently made it slightly confusing.
The following breakdown is for the New York State primary election. The process by which states will conduct the national election is still under review, and as information on that comes out a new post will follow.
New York State Primary Voting 101
First and foremost, if you are not registered to vote – the deadline to register (for the Primary) is FRIDAY, MAY 29, 2020. To do so online, go to https://dmv.ny.gov/more-info/electronic-voter-registration-application all you will need is your NYS ID / Drivers License, Zip Code, and last-four of your SSN.
You may also do so in person, or via the mail, but I highly advise you do so online. Info on alternatives at the bottom of this post.
Can I still vote in my upcoming primary election, at a physical voting site?
Yes. Polling sites will still be available across the nation, and your current polling site will be open. It will most likely be advised that you have a face covering, as required of anyone in public per NYS Executive Order 202.17 and 202.18.
What is “Early Voting”?
New York State recently passed Early Voting, and for the primary the early voting period will be June 13, 2020 – June 21, 2020. With the actual primary election day being June 23, 2020. Early Voting is a great option to avoid potential long lines on the actual election day, and will give you greater flexibility.
What if I do not feel safe going to a physical polling site?
You are not alone, and Governor Cuomo has signed Executive Orders 202.23 and 202.26 which allowed statewide absentee voting, even if you are currently in the county where you could physically go to vote. The orders also allowed the state to automatically send out absentee applications to all those who are registered. The purpose is to simplify the process, and to make requesting an absentee ballot much easier.
Do I need a reason to vote absentee?
Typically, you need to have one of the valid reasons they list to vote absentee. And while this still applies to the current situation, the potential to contract Covid-19 has been included under the reason of “temporary illness.”
According to the NYS website: Voters may select “Temporary Illness or Physical Disability” as their reason for requesting an absentee ballot due to the potential of contracting COVID-19.
Therefore, you do not need to have a reason outside of simply fearing the contraction of Covid-19.
Is an absentee ballot application the same as an absentee ballot?
No – the NYS constitution does not give Governor Cuomo the power to automatically send out absentee ballots, this is why they are instead sending out absentee ballot applications. After you send in your absentee ballot application – which should occur ASAP but no later than 7 days before the election – you will be sent an absentee ballot as early as 32 days before the election, or as soon as your absentee ballot application is received.
Your absentee ballot must be sent back (postmarked) by June 22nd aka the day before the election. With the local board of elections receiving the absentee ballot no later than June 30th.
Do I have to wait to receive my absentee ballot application?
No – you could find a copy of the application online (links at the end of this post) and email, mail, or fax it back to your local county board. You can find the mail information for your respective county board : https://www.elections.ny.gov/CountyBoards.html
A benefit to waiting for the absentee application to arrive, is that it comes with postage to mail it back. However, with the option to email or fax your application, this may be a non-issue.
If you would rather forgo the application and send a letter (hey, options are good things to have) you may do so no earlier than 30 days before the election. More information: https://www.elections.ny.gov/votingabsentee.html
To sum it up…
You need to register by May 29th to vote in the upcoming state and congressional primary election. Then you will automatically receive an absentee ballot application in the mail, which will need to be sent back no later than 7 days before the election. You will then receive an absentee ballot which will have all the candidates listed, and will need to be postmarked and sent back by June 22nd.
If you are feeling up to voting in the physical poll sites, make sure you are registered to vote and find your polling site. Wear all the proper PPE, and try to come early to avoid long lines.
Information on registering to vote: https://dmv.ny.gov/more-info/electronic-voter-registration-application
Online Absentee Ballot Application –