Despite the many challenges arising from the grueling COVID-19 crisis, election season is marching forward with an important deadline for New York voters: Friday May 29th is the last day to register to vote in the June 23rd primary election.

This is the election where you can cast your Democratic presidential primary vote after the state attempted to cancel it and a court ordered it back on. There are some other high-profile contests depending on where you live, like the 15th congressional district in the Bronx, where a crowded field of Democrats are vying for the nomination to succeed long-serving Congressman Jose Serrano, who is retiring. In Queens, there’s the Democratic primary for Queens borough president, with five candidates on the ballot. There are also primaries for state legislative races across the city. More to come on all the interesting races, but first, here’s what you need to know to make sure you are registered to vote.

How do I register to vote when I’m stuck inside because of the pandemic?

You have a couple of options. The only way to do it online is through the Department of Motor Vehicles. You need a license or non-driver ID and social security number. Those forms get sent to the Board of Elections local office for processing. There has been a push for a full online voter-registration system—the City Council passed legislation and Mayor Bill de Blasio actually signed a bill calling for a system that would use a platform built by the New York City Campaign Finance Board. A version of that proposal was submitted to the state legislature, which is the only entity that can compel the BOE to act. Youth advocates have been urging action but it remains stuck in Albany limbo.

What do I do if I don't have a DMV account?

Another option is to download a paper form from the New York City Board of Elections, fill it out in blue or black ink and mail it in. The form does say postage paid, and the city BOE spokesperson told Gothamist/WNYC that a person should be able to staple that paper and put it in the mail with the bar code showing (though it seems like an envelope with some postage would be a more prudent choice, if you need to go this route). You can also find the form in different languages on the New York City Campaign Finance Board, but you need to fill out the form in English.

Either way, it needs to be postmarked or hand delivered to a Board of Elections office on Friday, May 29th. If you do decide to mail it, it needs to be received by the BOE office by June 3rd, which is next Wednesday.

Who is eligible to register -- and what happens if I miss the May 29th deadline?

To register, you need to be a United States citizen who will be 18 or older on the day of the election. (You actually can pre-register as a 16 or 17 year old, but you still can't vote until you're 18.) You also need to be a resident of New York City for at least 30 days before the election. You cannot register if you are currently incarcerated for a felony conviction. The right to vote in New York is automatically returned to those who have served their time and completed parole. However, you may be able to vote if you are on parole for a felony conviction and you've received a voting pardon. (Note: you also can register and vote if you are incarcerated awaiting trial without a conviction.)

Now, if you miss the deadline, don't despair. There is plenty of time to register to vote in the general election this fall. That deadline is not until early October and does not require you to register with a party to vote.

Is there a way to check if I'm registered already?

Yes! You can check here if you are registered in the five boroughs. There is also a look-up function on the State Board of Elections.

What do I do if I'm not in the system yet?

First, keep checking. If you can complete a voter registration form ahead of the deadline and submit it, do that. If you already did that, and you still don't see yourself in the system, let us know. Tweet at @brigidbergin and send me a direct message or send an email to We can't promise to look into each case but we do want to know if there are issues. You can also try calling the New York City Board of Elections at 1-866-Vote-NYC.

How is that absentee ballot process going?

The city sent close to 4 million absentee ballot applications in the mail last week. Make sure to review the form carefully. The name and address fields are filled in already. You do need to select the reason you are requesting the ballot, which for most people will be temporary illness due to Covid19. You also need to provide your date of birth, and check off how you want to receive your ballot (via a mail or picked up from a BOE office). Then you sign and date it.

Pro Tip: when you go to stick the application in the envelope and start to panic that it doesn't fit, take a breath, and check to make sure you tore off the perforated strip on the left side of the form. It will still be tight, but then it should fit in there. Get that in the mail no later than June 16th. Better still, apply online.

When will my ballot arrive?

Depends on when you submit your application. The Board is currently mailing them now. But when you get it, you will want to mail it back as soon as possible. The ballot needs to be postmarked by June 22nd. (Technically, you can hand deliver it to the BOE office on June 23rd, too.)

Will there be any early voting or in person voting in June?

Just this week the Board published the early voting sites for New York City. There are 79 sites across the city, which is actually an increase compared to last year by 18 sites. Early voting starts on Saturday June 13th and runs through Sunday June 21st. The hours vary by day so if this is the way you decide to vote, check the schedule before heading out. You can also vote on primary day which, once again, is June 23rd.

Listen to reporter Brigid Bergin's radio story for WNYC: