The November general election is less than four weeks away, and unlike primaries, this one's open to just about anyone looking to cast a ballot. But first, they must register to vote.
This year, millions of registered voters will choose their next governor, state attorney general, state comptroller, members of Congress, and state legislators. For New York City residents, the ballot includes three questions posed by the NYC Racial Justice Commission, plus a question on the Environmental Bond Act posed by the state.
There are several ways you can register to vote in the upcoming election, and with deadlines approaching we’ve come up with this how-to guide to answer all your questions ahead of Election Day.
When’s the absolute latest I can register to vote?
You must mail your voter registration form by Oct. 14. You can download an application on the state Board of Elections website (or request one by calling 800-FOR-VOTE), the state DMV website (if you have at least a valid state-issued ID), a select number of state agencies (a list can be found here), or in your borough’s BOE office (a list can be found here).
But whether you download the form or drop by a local BOE or designated state agency to get one, you must mail it in by Oct. 14. Your local election board office must have it in its possession by Oct. 19. To vote in this election, you must be 18 years old and a U.S. citizen.
I think I’m already registered. Where can I easily check that?
I’m already registered to vote but I just moved. Do I have to reregister?
Yes. If you moved into your new place this month, your local election board office must receive a voter registration form by Oct. 19. Per state rules, anyone who just moved and is looking to vote must send a form listing their new address to their local board at least 25 days before an election (in this case, it’s Oct. 14).
What if I’m serving in the military? Can I still carry out my civic duty?
Yes. If you’re an active-duty member of the military and a New York resident, you get an extra two weeks to send your voter registration form. They can download and fill out this form. This same form can be filled out by New Yorkers living overseas and still active voters. The form also doubles as an application to request an absentee ballot for them.
Speaking of, I’m already registered but prefer to vote by absentee ballot. Can I still do that?
Yes, there’s way more time to request an absentee ballot application for the upcoming election. Here are a couple of ways:
The deadline to ask for an absentee ballot application by mail is Oct. 24. You can apply for an absentee ballot on Nov. 7 (the day before Election Day), but you’ll have to visit your local BOE to get one, fill it out and submit it.
Once you get the absentee ballot in person or through the mail, you can hand it in to your local BOE or mail it by Nov. 8. Your local elections board must have it by Nov. 15 and it must be postmarked no later than Nov. 8.
What are the qualifications?
State rules say you need to provide a reason you can’t make it to a poll site on Election Day. And the state elections board doesn’t take any excuse.
It has a whole list of acceptable excuses to receive an absentee ballot that include not being in your designated county on Election Day, having primary care responsibilities, are a resident or patient at a Veterans Health Administration hospital or being held in custody awaiting trial. Other valid excuses include being incarcerated on a misdemeanor charge, “awaiting action by a grand jury" as listed by the BOE, or have a permanent or temporary illness (that includes if you currently have COVID, which falls under “temporary illness” in the application; that’s now subject to a lawsuit).
Will registering to vote get easier in the near future?
Should be. A state law that automatically registers you to vote takes effect in January. This means anyone who receives a state-issued ID or driver’s license in New York will instantaneously be enrolled as a voter (in case they weren’t enrolled already). This will save people time that would otherwise be spent printing out ballots, filling them out, and sending them to the DMV.
The state will include other agencies under its purview in January 2024, with SUNY campuses including automatic voter registration in January 2025.
This might fix an unfortunate statistic in the state: New York has one of the country’s worst voter turnout records.