The election is just around the corner, and New Yorkers across the city are already beginning to cast their ballots (you can still register to vote, too—Friday, October 9th is the deadline!). This is our second installment of How to Vote, where we address some of the questions and misinformation we have received from concerned voters. If you have more questions, reach out to us at email@example.com or @gothamist /@wnyc on social media.
There has been all this talk about problems with absentee ballots in Brooklyn. What happened and should I be worried?
The New York City Board of Elections contracted with the vendor Phoenix Graphics which was responsible for printing and mailing absentee ballots to voters in Brooklyn and Queens. There was an error in one print run for a batch of Brooklyn voters, which led to the inner “oath” envelope being printed with the wrong name and address. The BOE was alerted to the issue and the vendor took responsibility for printing and mailing new absentee ballot envelopes to everyone in that initial print run. That was close to 100,000 voters. Those replacement ballots all went out this week.
If I get a second ballot, does that absolutely mean there was a problem with my original?
No, not necessarily. To complicate matters, the Board and the vendor do not think everyone who is receiving a second ballot (which includes a red stripe on the envelope) received an erroneous first ballot envelope. But the vendor told the Board that they experienced what they called a loss of data when they were trying to fix the printing issue. So to ensure any voter who could have received an errant ballot envelope gets a corrected one, Phoenix Graphics mailed a second ballot package to all voters included in that first print run.
I already mailed back my first ballot and I’m sure the envelope was correct. Will that count if I don’t mail back my second ballot?
If there was nothing wrong with your original ballot envelope and you completed and returned it correctly, that ballot will count.
Are you sure?
Board of Elections Executive Director Michael Ryan was asked this specific question during a public meeting with the Kings County Democrats last week. He said: “If the first ballot is accurate and contains no errors, it will absolutely be counted.”
Why does the letter in my second ballot say you will make sure it will count?
Ryan went on the explain that the reason they were encouraging voters who submitted their first ballot to still submit the second ballot was out of an abundance of caution because, “for the people that returned [the original] ballots, there would be some number of folks that might not have noticed that their envelope was wrong and they might have signed it and sent it in.” If a voter signed a ballot envelope with a different name printed on the front, it would be voided.
The return envelope for my absentee ballot says to apply postage. How much?
That’s a great and reasonable question. Sadly, the answer is somewhat absurd. As we explained in our first “How To” neither the Board of Elections nor the United States Postal Service will provide us with a definitive answer. Since the ballots in each borough are different sizes, and postage depends on weight, you could go to your local post office and have them weigh your ballot to tell you the exact amount. An easier alternative would be to use two Forever stamps. Under USPS policy, they will still deliver election mail with missing or insufficient postage, and then they will seek that payment from local Boards of Elections.
Will the absentee ballot tracker tell me if my ballot was received?
Yes. The ballot tracker should tell you when your absentee ballot application was processed, when the ballot was mailed to you, and when it’s received by the Board of Elections.
I changed my mind. Even though I mailed in my absentee ballot, I want to vote in person. Can I do that?
Yes. It is your right under New York State law to vote in person during early voting, October 24 - November 1, or on Election Day, November 3. Before the BOE begins counting absentee ballots, they will check to make sure you didn’t vote in person. If you did, your absentee ballot will not be counted.
Not unless that is your assigned early voting or Election Day poll site. Every voter is assigned to an early-voting site. For most voters, this will not be the same location as their Election Day poll site. Find your assigned poll site here.
Of course, you can drop off your absentee ballot at any early voting or Election Day poll site. So if you really want to check out MSG or Barclays, that could be your excuse.