Voting 2020 FAQs

Voting 2020 FAQs

Election Information You Need

FAQs

VOTING BY ABSENTEE BALLOT

Early Voting

At the Poll Site

Moving During An Election Period

FAQs About Voting Via Absentee Ballot in NYS 

HOW CAN I APPLY TO VOTE ABSENTEE IN NEW YORK STATE?

Voters can apply online, by mail, or by calling their county board of elections. Voters can use the “temporary illness” excuse if they are applying because they are concerned over the risk of contracting COVID-19.

WHERE DO I GET AN ABSENTEE BALLOT APPLICATION?
Voters can also access an absentee ballot application from the State Board of Elections’ and New York City Board of Elections’ websites here:

Under #1 on the application, voters can select “temporary illness or physical disability” as their reason for requesting to vote by absentee ballot. The legislature has expanded the definition of “temporary illness” to include the risk of contracting the coronavirus. The form can be printed, completed, signed, and mailed back to your county Board of Elections. You can find contact information for your county Board of Elections here.

Voters can also submit an online application through the State Board of Elections

WHAT IF I DON’T HAVE ACCESS TO THE INTERNET, COMPUTER OR A PRINTER?
Voters who still need to request an absentee ballot application and who do not have internet access or a printer can call their Board of Elections and request that they mail them a paper application.

Voters who do not have access to a printer, but do have computer access, can request an absentee ballot electronically by submitting an absentee ballot application by FAX or email. Voters can also request an absentee ballot by sending an email to their county Board of Elections (call your local BOE to learn what information is required.) This will allow the Board to complete the review process and identify the individual as a qualified and registered voter prior to issuing the absentee ballot.

Call your county Board of Elections (find your county BOE phone number at: https://www.elections.ny.gov/CountyBoards.html to find out their procedure for applying for an absentee ballot electronically.

HOW WILL I RECEIVE MY ABSENTEE BALLOT?
Absentee ballots will be sent to the voter’s residence address unless otherwise requested by the voter. Delivery of absentee ballots to voters still remains the same, via mail or in person. There is no change in the return methods. The ballot must still be sent back by mail or returned in person by a specific deadline (see below.)

WHAT WILL I RECEIVE WITH THE ABSENTEE BALLOT?
After applying for an absentee ballot, you will receive:

  1. Absentee Ballot: must be filled out (no signature here) and inserted into:
  2. Ballot Envelope: Must be sealed, then signed and dated and inserted into:
  3. Pre-addressed, postage paid Return Envelope: Postage will not be provided.

WHEN WILL THE ABSENTEE BALLOT BE MAILED TO ME?
Your absentee ballot materials will be sent to you at least 32 days before federal, state, county, city or town elections in which you are eligible to vote. If you applied after this date, your ballot will be sent immediately after your completed application is received and processed by your
local Board of Elections. Complete the ballot, SIGN THE ENVELOPE PROVIDED, and mail to your county Board of Elections. The voter’s signature on the return envelope will be used to validate the ballot.

WILL I NEED TO STAMP THE RETURN ENVELOPE OR IS POSTAGE PROVIDED?
Yes, you may need more than one stamp depending on how many pages your ballot includes. 

WHERE CAN I RETURN MY BALLOT IN PERSON?
Voters can return their ballot in person at their county board of elections office. Voters can also return their ballot to any early voting or election day poll site in the county where they are registered to vote during normal voting hours. Counties will have designated areas and lines for voters who are looking to drop off their ballot in person.

WHAT IF I AM NOT AT MY NORMAL VOTING ADDRESS DURING THE ELECTION?
Voters can request their ballot be sent to an alternative address on their absentee ballot application. Voters who are currently forwarding their mail to another address should contact their county Board of Elections to ensure that they are still on their voter rolls.

WHAT IF I HAVE A DISABILITY THAT DOES NOT ALLOW ME TO READ OR SIGN THE APPLICATION OR BALLOT?
You may sign the absentee ballot application yourself, or you may make your mark and have your mark witnessed in the spaces provided on the bottom of the application. Please note that a power of attorney or printed name stamp is not allowed for any voting purpose.

WHAT IS THE DEADLINE TO APPLY TO VOTE BY ABSENTEE BALLOT? AND TO SUBMIT THE ABSENTEE BALLOT?

  • October 27 is the last day to postmark application for absentee ballot by mail.
  • November 2 is the last day to apply in person for absentee ballot.
  • November 3 is last day to postmark absentee ballot.
  • November 3 is the last day to deliver absentee ballot in person at board of elections.

HOW WILL I KNOW IF MY BALLOT COULD BE REJECTED?
Board of elections review each voter’s absentee ballot to verify their identity by comparing their poll book signature to the signature on the inner absentee ballot envelope. If a county board of elections determines that there are any defects with a voter’s absentee ballot that can be remedied by the voter, they will contact the voter by phone, email, or mail to provide directions on how the voter can correct the issue(s).

WHAT COULD CAUSE MY ABSENTEE BALLOT TO NOT BE COUNTED?
Board of elections allow voters to correct issues with the signature on their inner ballot envelope, which is called the affirmation envelope. Voters are given the opportunity to correct the following issues related to their absentee ballot affirmation envelope:

  1. the affirmation envelope is unsigned; or
  2. an affirmation ballot envelope signature does not match the voter’s registration signature and thus does not appear to verify the voter; or
  3. the affirmation envelope does not have the required witness signature if they had assistance competing their ballot; or
  4. the ballot is returned without an affirmation envelope in the return envelope: or
  5. the affirmation envelope is signed by the person that has provided assistance to the voter but is not signed or marked by the voter him/herself; or
  6. the voter has failed to sign the affirmation envelope and someone else has signed the affirmation.

If an affirmation envelope arrives at the board of elections unsealed, it will be considered invalid. If this ballot is received by the board of elections prior to the end of the election, the board will notify the voter of other options for voting, and, if time permits, provide the voter with a new absentee ballot.

HOW DO I ADDRESS ISSUES WITH MY ABSENTEE BALLOT?
The board of elections will send the voter a notice explaining the reason for the ballot
rejection and the procedure to remedy the rejection either by mail, email, or phone. For
mail correspondence, the notice will be sent to the absentee voter's address indicated in
the registration records and, if different, the mailing address indicated on the absentee
ballot application. The board of elections will make at least three attempts, over at least
two days, at different times of the day to contact the voter by telephone. Once the board
of elections receives a response from the voter, the voter will have 5 days to correct
any issues with their absentee ballot.

EARLY VOTING

WHAT DOES EARLY VOTING DO?
Early voting allows you to vote in person at a poll site within your county for nine (9) days, beginning 10 days before an election and ending 2 days before an election. Early voting is not available on the day before any election day. You do not need to have a reason or excuse to vote early.

The poll sites for early voting will not necessarily be your usual poll site location. Each county will determine where the poll sites for early voting will be and the hours each site will be open for voting. Some counties will assign you to a specific poll site during early voting days and other counties will allow you to go to any poll site within the county to vote early. Each county can make this decision and you can see on your county Board of Elections’ (BOE) website where you can vote in your county. A county is required to have one (1) poll site for every fifty thousand (50,000) registered voters, though some counties may have more.

ON THE ELECTION DAY, PRIMARY OR GENERAL, YOU MUST GO TO YOUR USUAL ASSIGNED POLL SITE TO VOTE.
If you vote in person during early voting, you are NOT eligible to vote by either absentee ballot, or in person at the polls on Election Day.

WHAT CAN I EXPECT AT THE EARLY VOTING POLL SITE?
Voting at an early voting poll site may be different from the way you have voted on Election Day. For example, there may be electronic poll books instead of paper registration books. However, you will still be expected to sign in (either on the paper poll book or the electronic poll book), receive a ballot, complete the ballot and feed the ballot into a scanner for counting. A sample ballot should be posted at your poll site.

DO I NEED TO BE REGISTERED TO VOTE EARLY OR CAN I REGISTER AT AN EARLY VOTING POLL SITE?
You still must be registered in advance to vote early in NYS. See the list of Dates and Deadlines above for the last day to register to vote in person at your county Board of Election’s office or to postmark your voter registration form (which should be mailed to your county Board of Election’s office). In NYS, you cannot register to vote during early voting or at the polls on an election day. The registration form is available on the NYS BOE website.

You can download, print and complete a voter registration form from your county Board of Elections’ office or website, the State League website or you can register online through the NYS Department of Motor Vehicles if you have an account with DMV (e.g., driver’s license, car registration).

HOW WILL EVERY POLLING SITE HAVE THE POLLBOOKS WITH A LIST OF REGISTERED VOTERS?
In some counties, only one poll site will be available for early voting and that may be the county Board of Elections’ office. In some counties where there is more than one poll site for early voting, you will be assigned to a specific early voting site. (This poll site may be different from your usual poll site where you would vote on election day.) In other counties, you will be allowed to visit ANY poll site to vote early and at those poll sites, there will likely be electronic poll books which will have all voters in that county listed; and you will sign in by your name on the electronic poll book (computer.)

WILL THE BALLOT LOOK THE SAME AT EARLY VOTING POLL SITES AND GENERAL ELECTION DAY POLL SITES?
Yes, the ballot at an early voting poll site will be identical to the ballot provided on
election day. A sample ballot will be posted at each poll site, it may also available on the website of your county Board of Elections.

WHEN WILL MY VOTE BE COUNTED IF I VOTE EARLY?
Ballots submitted at an early poll site will be counted on the election day. The statute permits counties to begin counting early voting ballots no earlier than 8pm on the election day (primary or general).

CAN I CHANGE MY VOTE IF I VOTE EARLY?
No, once you submit your ballot in person, at an early voting poll site, you cannot vote again at an early voting poll site or at your usual poll site on the election day. Once you submit your ballot, you have completed voting and cannot change your vote.

AT THE POLL SITES

WHAT IF MY NAME IS NOT IN THE PAPER POLL BOOK OR ELECTRONIC POLL BOOK?
If you are at an early voting poll site or at your usual poll site on an election day, and your name is not in the poll book (either paper book or electronic pollbook), ask to complete an affidavit ballot (sometimes called a provisional ballot). Make sure you are at the correct poll site for your address (either in early voting or on election day), and if so, do not leave without completing an affidavit ballot. After the election day, the county Board of Elections’ (BOE) office will research your registration and count your affidavit ballot, if you are a qualified voter. You should follow up with a call or visit to your county BOE to confirm that your ballot was counted. In certain counties, including NYC, the BOE will send you a letter advising you whether or not your vote was counted.

MOVING DURING AN ELECTION PERIOD

WHAT IF I MOVED OR AM MOVING?
One of the other reforms passed by the Legislature last year was a statewide voter registration transfer, also known as “Registration Portability.” This law requires the Board of Elections to transfer registration and enrollment of a voter appearing on a statewide voter list to wherever the voter moves within the state. So if you move, even to a different county in NYS, and your new county has not been notified of your change of address, you can vote on an affidavit ballot at the poll site of your new address, and your affidavit ballot will be counted once your new address is verified. As this is a new law, we strongly recommend that if you move, you submit a voter registration form with your new information or visit MyDMV to change your registration online (see above). If you have a driver’s license or motor vehicle registration and need to file a form with the Department of Motor Vehicles to change your address, you can notify the Board of Elections of your address change at the same time by checking “yes” for that option on DMV’s Form MV-232.

Also, if you go to vote either during early voting or on an election day, and your name is not in the poll book, fill out an affidavit ballot. You will be prompted to enter your new address on the affidavit ballot envelope.