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Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)

Answers to common questions about registering and voting in New York City.

REGISTERING FAQ
VOTING FAQ
How do I register to vote?

Fill out a voter registration form and submit it in person or by mail with the NYC Board of Elections (BOE). You can download a registration form from the BOE’s website, pick one up at your local BOE office, at many NYC agency customer service locations, or call 866-VOTE-NYC (212-487-5496 for the hearing impaired) to request one by mail. You can also register online (see next question. The deadline for postmarked and in-person registration submissions is 25 days prior to the election you wish to vote in. If you wish to enroll in a political party, be sure to indicate which party you would like to join on your registration form.

Can I register to vote online?

Online voter registration is available through the New York State Department of Motor Vehicles (DMV) website. You will need to set up a profile with a valid NYS driver license (or non-driver ID) number and your social security number to begin.

What is a political party?

In New York State a political party is a political organization whose candidate for governor in the most recent election received 50,000 or more votes. Political parties are able to hold primary elections, where voters registered in that party choose the party’s candidates for the general election. (Voters who join a party can still vote for any candidate on any line in the general election).

Other political organizations can put candidates on the general election ballot only, and are known in New York State as Independent Bodies. They cannot hold primary elections. Examples of Independent Bodies include the Socialist Workers and the Libertarian organizations.

Candidates can run on party lines, independent lines, or a combination of both.

In 2016, the NYS political parties are (in ballot order based on the votes they received in the last gubernatorial election):

  • Democratic
  • Republican
  • Conservative
  • Working Families
  • Independence
  • Green
  • Women’s Equality
  • Reform
Do I need to enroll in a political party?
 
You do not need to enroll in a political party to vote in general elections. However, registering as a member of a political party allows you to vote in that party’s primary elections, to help decide who will be that party’s candidates for the general election.
 
How do I change my political party or enroll in a party for the first time?
 
If you are a registered voter who wishes to join a political party for the first time or change your political party membership, you must complete and submit a new voter registration form. Your change of enrollment must be received no later than 25 days prior to the general election before the primary in which you wish to vote (generally that means in October of the previous year).
 
How do I register to vote if I am in the military or living overseas?
 
If you are serving in the U.S. military, you, along with your spouse and any dependents of voting age living with you, may register as a military voter in the state of New York. This means you will be able to receive an absentee ballot for all federal, state, and local elections in which you would be eligible to vote based on your residence in the state of New York.
  • Complete a Federal Post Card Application to register as a military or overseas (Federal) voter and return it by mail to your borough Board of Elections officeThis application will also serve as your absentee ballot application for the next two federal general election cycles.
  • If you are registered but your address changes, including if you move back to your U.S. residence, you must contact your borough Board of Elections office and inform them of the change to receive your absentee ballot.
  • In addition the above link, you may request a Federal Post Card Application from your Voting Assistance Officer on base. You can also visit the Federal Voting Assistance Program Website or the Military and Overseas Federal Voting Website for forms and further information.
  • When you register and apply for your ballot, you may specify the format in which you would like to receive your ballot (i.e., mail, fax, or email). If you select the online ballot delivery option, you will receive an email directing you to the state of New York’s ballot delivery site, where you can access your ballot.
  • Regardless how you receive your ballot, you must return your ballot to your borough Board of Elections office by postal mail.
  • If you requested your ballot but have not received it, you may use the Federal Write-In Absentee Ballot and return that to your borough Board of Elections office.
  • If you have any questions, call the New York State Board of Elections at (518) 473-5086 or the Federal Voter Assistance Program at (800) 438-8683. You may also contact your U.S. Embassy.
I don't know if I'm registered to vote; how can I find out?
 
Use the Voter Registration Look-up to check your registration status online, or call the 866-VOTE-NYC for assistance.
 
Could my registration have expired?

Your registration has no expiration date, but it may be moved to inactive if you did not vote in the last two federal elections, or if you moved and did not update your address with the BOE.

What if I moved within New York City since the last time I voted?

When you move, New York State law requires you to change your address with the BOE within 25 days. You do this by submitting a new voter registration form and filling in the information on the form, including information in the box labeled “Voting information that has changed”. Fill in your new and old address, check the box for the party you wish to be enrolled in (do this even if you were enrolled in a party at your old address), and provide any other requested information. If you moved but you didn’t change your address with the BOE before the deadline, you should go to your new polling place and vote by affidavit ballot. Call 866-VOTE-NYC to find out whether your change of address has been processed.

Can I keep my registration record confidential if I am a domestic violence victim?
 
If you are a victim of domestic violence and you are concerned about the security of your personal information, you may obtain a court order from the New York Supreme Court in your county to have your voter registration record kept separate and not be made available to the public for inspection or copying. Only election officials acting within the scope of their official duties will be able to access your voter registration record. You may also request a special ballot so you do not need to go to your polling place on Election Day. Contact your borough Board of Elections office to find out more about their procedures for confidential registration and special ballots.
 
I am currently homeless, can I register and vote?

Yes, you have the right to register and vote. Fill out a voter registration form and write a location where you can be found, such as “Bench on Central Park on 86th Street”, as the address where you live. You will be assigned a poll site based on this address. Write the address of a shelter, P.O. Box, or family member as the address where you receive mail. Your voter card will be sent to this address.

Does a felony conviction affect my right to register and vote?

You may not register or vote, if you have been convicted of a felony and for that felony:

  • You are currently incarcerated; or
  • You are under parole supervision.

You may register and vote if you were convicted of a felony and for that felony:

  • You were sentenced to probation;
  • You were not sentenced to incarceration or your prison sentence was suspended;
  • You have served your maximum prison sentence, in which case you are able to re-register to vote
  • You were on parole and then discharged, in which case you are able to re-register to vote; or
  • You have received a pardon.
Does a misdemeanor conviction affect my right to register and vote?

You can register and vote, even from jail, if you have been convicted of only a misdemeanor. The same rules apply whether you were convicted in a New York court, another state’s court, or a federal court. You do not need to provide any documentation about your criminal record in order to register and vote.

What is a primary election?

A primary election is held when more than one candidate wants a party’s nomination and has successfully completed all the steps to get on the ballot. The winner of a primary election runs as that party’s nominee in the general election held in November. 

Can I vote in the primary election?

If you are a registered voter who is enrolled (by the deadline) in a party that is holding a primary election, you can vote in the primary. 

What is a runoff primary election and can I vote in that?

If no candidate for a citywide office (mayor, public advocate, or comptroller) receives at least 40% of the vote in the primary election, a runoff primary election is held between the two candidates who received the most votes. If you were eligible to vote in a party’s primary, you are also eligible to vote in any runoff primary held by that party.

What is a general election and can I vote in that?

In the general election, candidates from different parties compete to win elected office. You can vote for any candidate running on any party line for each office on the ballot. You can also vote “yes” or “no” on ballot proposals. All voters who registered by the deadline are eligible to vote in the general election.

What is a special election and can I vote in that?

A special election occurs when an office becomes vacant before the end of the scheduled term, for example, if the elected official resigns or is elected to a different office. When this happens, a special election is declared to within a short period of time to fill the seat until the end of the term. You can vote in a special election if you are registered to vote by the deadline and you are a resident of the district in which the special election is held.

What is a ballot proposal?

A ballot proposal is a question placed on the ballot for voters to decide. Ballot questions may involve bond issues, or proposed amendments to the New York State Constitution or the New York City Charter. In some cases, an individual or group submits a petition to place a question on the ballot.

I don’t know if I’m registered to vote — how can I find out?

Use the Voter Registration Look-up to check your registration status online, or call 866-VOTE-NYC (212-487-5496 for the hearing impaired) for assistance.

Could my registration have expired?

Your registration has no expiration date. However, if you did not vote in the last two federal elections, or you moved without updating your address with the BOE, your registration may be considered “inactive” and your name may not appear in the voter roll at your poll site. You can still vote by affidavit ballot.

Where do I go to vote?

You should receive a voter card in the mail 2–3 weeks after registering to vote that contains your poll site information. You can also check online by using the Board of Elections poll site locator.

What if I moved within New York City since the last time I voted?

When you move, New York State law requires you to change your address with the BOE within 25 days. You do this by submitting a new voter registration form and filling in the information on the form, including information in the box labeled “Voting information that has changed.” Fill in your new and old address, check the box for the party you wish to be enrolled in (do this even if you were enrolled in a party at your old address), and provide any other requested information. If you moved but you didn’t change your address with the BOE before the deadline, you should go to your new polling place and vote by affidavit ballot. Call 866-VOTE-NYC to find out whether your change of address has been processed.

What if my name is not in the voter book when I sign in to vote?

First, make sure you are signing in at the correct table for your assembly and election district. These district numbers are printed on the mailing label of Voter Guides you receive from the CFB and on the mailer the BOE sends to all registered voters before each election. A poll worker is available at each poll site to look up your name and address and determine which district you live in if you need assistance, or check the BOE’s poll site locator.

Once you confirm that you are signing in at the correct table, if you are not on the poll list, it may be because the BOE did not receive your registration form. If you believe that you are eligible, you can still vote. Ask a poll worker for an affidavit ballot, and follow the instructions. After the election, the BOE will check its records and your vote will be counted if you were eligible to vote. If not, you will receive a notice that you were not eligible to vote with a registration form for future elections.

What is an affidavit ballot?
 
An affidavit ballot is a paper ballot you can request if you’re not listed in the voter book but believe you are eligible to vote and are at the correct polling site (for example, if you moved without updating your address or your address change wasn’t processed in time for you to appear in the voter book). Follow the instructions to fill out this ballot and the envelope, and give it to a poll worker when you are done. After the election, the Board of Elections will check its records—if you were eligible to vote, were at the correct poll site, and filled out the ballot and envelope correctly, your vote will be counted. If not, you will receive a notice that your vote did not count.
 
Your affidavit envelope serves as a registration form for future elections if you were not eligible to vote and you filled it out correctly.
 
What if a poll watcher challenges my right to vote?
 
If a poll watcher challenges your right to vote, e.g., states that you are not the person you claim to be or that you don’t live in the district, you can ask a poll worker to administer an oath to you to affirm your qualifications to vote. You will swear under penalty of perjury that you are eligible and qualified to vote, after which you will be permitted to vote on regular (not affidavit) ballot.
 
What if I can’t get to my polling place on Election Day?

You can vote by absentee ballot if you are unable to get to your polling place due to absence from the county or New York City on Election Day; temporary or permanent illness or physical disability; hospitalization; duties related to primary care of one or more individuals who are ill or disabled; or detention in a veterans administration hospital, jail, or prison, awaiting trial or action by a grand jury, or in prison for a conviction of a crime or offense that was not a felony.

There are two ways to vote by absentee ballot: by mail or in person.

  • By mail: call 866-VOTE-NYC to request an absentee ballot application or download it from the BOE’s website. Fill out the application and mail it to your BOE borough office by the deadline. The BOE will send you an absentee ballot. Fill it out and mail it by the deadline to your BOE borough office.
  • In person: Absentee voting in person begins as soon as the ballots are available (at least 32 days before an election) and ends on Election Day. It is conducted at your BOE borough office Monday–Friday and on the weekend prior to Election Day, 9:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m., and until 9:00 p.m. on Election Day.

Please note: If the deadline for requesting an absentee ballot by mail has passed and you cannot appear at your poll site on Election Day because of an accident or sudden illness, you can send a representative to your BOE borough office with a written letter of authorization to obtain an absentee ballot on your behalf. A completed application and your completed ballot must be returned to your BOE borough office by 9:00 p.m. on Election Day.

I’m not sure what’s on the ballot this election — where can I find out?

You can find out about candidates and ballot questions by visiting NYC Votes’ online Voter Guide. A printed Guide is also mailed to voters when local offices (such as mayor and City Council member) or ballot questions are on the ballot.

I was convicted of a felony, can I vote?

If you have been convicted of a felony, you can register and vote after you complete your sentence and/or parole. See the Registering FAQ for more information.

I am currently homeless, can I vote?

Yes, if you register. See the instructions in the Registering FAQ.

Do I need to show identification to vote?

In most cases, you do not need an ID to vote. If you are voting for the first time, you may need to show a photo ID to verify you are who you claim to be.

I am a registered voter but my name is not on the voter roll at my poll site — can I vote?

Yes. If your name does not appear in the voter rolls but you are at the correct poll site, you may vote by affidavit ballot. You should double check your poll site location to verify you are at the correct site before asking your poll worker for an affidavit ballot. After the election, the BOE will check its records and your vote will be counted if you were eligible to vote. If not, you will receive a notice that you were not eligible to vote with a form so you can register for future elections.