By Judie Gorenstein
To vote in the upcoming elections, you much get registered THIS WEEK! We are grateful to guest blogger, Judie Gorenstein of the Huntington League of Women Voters for this Election Day FAQ:
Election Day is Tuesday, November 6. In New York, in order to vote, you MUST BE registered 25 days before the election. Therefore, the last day to register this year is Oct. 12. You can click on suffolkvotes.org website to make sure you are registered, see if you are enrolled in a party and if so which one, and where your poll site is. If you check and your name does not come up, you can call the Suffolk Board of Elections to try to resolve any issues. If it is before Oct. 12, you can register and mail in your form. If you wish to be enrolled in a party and are not or enrolled in another party, you must re-register before Oct. 12 to be in your new party for the 2019 elections.
What else can you do? Speak to people you know to see if they are registered. If they are turning 18 in 2018 they should register. If they are 18 by Election Day and register by Oct. 12, they then can vote. If they turn 18 after Election Day, they will be able to vote next year.
What happens if you cannot get to the polls on Election Day? Thirty seven states have early voting, when people can vote before Election Day. Not NY. What you can do is request and vote on an absentee ballot. NY is one of only 13 states that has no early voting and requires an excuse for voting as an absentee. If you will be out of the county on Election Day for vacation, school, work, are in a hospital imprisoned, have a disability or primary care responsibilities that do not allow you to get to the polls, you can vote absentee. This is a two step process. First you need to send in an application requesting your ballot. You can get the request from at a library, post office, on line which must be completed and mailed to the Board of Elections by Oct. 30. The Board of Elections will then mail you your ballot which must be completed and postmarked by Nov. 5.
What should you do if you are uncertain that you will be able to get to the polls for the reasons mentioned? In these cases, you CAN and you SHOULD request and mail in an absentee ballot. The absentee ballots are only counted after Election Day when the poll books are back at the BOE and names are with signatures of those who votes. The absentee ballots mailed by people who voted are not counted. In fact, the Board Of Elections keeps data of how many absentee ballots are requested, how many mailed back, and how many not counted for various reasons : i.e., postmarked too late, not signed or filled out correctly, person voted at the polls. All other mailed in ballots are counted and tabulated and added to the poll numbers reported election night. At times, the absentee ballots have changed the outcome of elections.
What happens if you anticipated being able to get to the polls and find out after Oct. 30th, that you will be unable to do so? The Suffolk County Board of Elections will be opened the weekend before Election Day. Check on their website or call to see times and days they will be opened. You can go to the BOE at those times and vote on your absentee ballot. The absentee ballots completed at the BOE will be counted with the mailed in absentee ballots.
Remember your vote counts and will be counted but only if you vote.
It is important that you not only vote but are an educated voter. Before voting, know who is on your ballot. You can access your ballot on LWVNY’s electronic voter guide by going to my.lwv.org/new-york-state and clicking on the voter guide VotingNewYork. You will learn about your candidates, their background information, who is endorsing then, and their positions on major issues. If you choose, you can also get a reminder to vote.
In addition, you should try to meet and hear from the candidates themselves. Attend candidate events such as debates, forums etc. Sometimes the organizations who are sponsoring them are partisan. Organizations like the LWV are nonpartisan and are fair to all the candidates. You can check the LWVNYS webpage or your local leagues to find out their schedule of candidate events.
On Nov. 6 Election Day turn out to vote. You checked and know where your poll site is and hours it will be open. Many states require you to bring id when you vote In fact 17 states require photo id. NY does not. If when you registered you put in either your driver’s license or last 4 digits of social security number, you will not be asked for any id at the polls. If you did not include these when you registered and this is your first time voting, you will be asked for some ID.
What happens if for some reason your name is not in the poll book? Never leave the polls without voting! Ask for a provisional ballot, also called and affidavit ballot. Complete the form and vote. The affidavit ballot will be brought to the BOE with the other ballots. Often the omission of a name is a clerical error. If you are a registered voter and at the correct poll site, be assured that your vote will count and be counted correctly. Our voting machines which are paper ballot optical scanners, makes certain that if there is any question about the outcome, your actual ballots which drop into a box when you vote, can be recounted and if necessary counted by hand. In these times, when there is so much question about security, NY does have the safest system of voting.
Voting is not only a right but a responsibility. It is your power. Don’t abdicate it to others. Be a voter!