DON’T LOSE YOUR VOTE!
Follow these steps to safeguard your VOTE
by Esmeralda Simmons, Esq., Executive Director,
Center for Law and Social Justice, Medgar Evers College, City University of New York
How can you prevent your vote from being lost? The Center for Law and Social Justice has developed some dos and don’ts through helping voters on election days for twenty-eight years. These rules for wise voting can serve as a guide to protecting your ballot. Make you vote count.
First Rule of Voting: Make sure that you are registered to vote.
Every citizen should know whether the Board of Elections considers him/her to be a registered voter. It is not advisable to rely on the fact that you actually completed a voter registration form at some time in the past, or even that you have voted in the past. Confirming your registration is not difficult.
You can definitively confirm your registration either by:
· calling the Board of Elections Toll Free: 1.866.VOTE-NYC (1.866.868.3692),TDD: 1.212.487.5496; or
· visiting the Board of Elections’ office in your borough and asking them to look you up in their voter databank. (You may be asked for picture ID).
In addition, your registration should be valid if you voted on a voting machine at any public election last year; or, If you received a mailing this year at your current residence from the Board of Elections (BOE) that announced your polling site and the dates for the primary election and the general election.
If you cannot confirm your registration, don’t take chances, RE-REGISTER by filling out and signing another Voter Registration Form. You can only register online if you have a NYS DMV issued ID. Otherwise, because the law requires that you actually sign the form, you can download the application atwww.vote.nyc.ny.us/register.html complete it, sign it and then hand deliver or mail it in.
In New York City, a very Democratic town, voting in the local primary elections is pivotal -- the candidate that wins the Democratic Party primary election usually goes on to win the general election. To vote in a primary election, you must be enrolled in the political party having the primary contest, in addition to being registered to vote. It’s easy to enroll in a political party. You simply complete a new Voter Registration Form and complete Section 13 “Political Party” section on the form by checking the box next to political party in whose primary election you wish to vote.
Second Rule of Voting: Be at the right polling booth.
If you vote at the wrong polling site, your vote will not count even if you are registered! In NYC, most polling sites have more than one polling booth. Make sure that you know your correct ED/AD [Election District/ Assembly District] so you can correctly identify the correct polling booth assigned to your ED/AD within that polling site. The BOE says “You can vote ONLY at your designated polling place. Make sure you are at the correct polling site and Election District/Assembly District (ED/AD) for your address.” The price of going to the wrong polling site or polling booth (ED/AD) is very high. Your name will not be on the list and your vote may be put in jeopardy. Technically, your vote is supposed to count if you vote within the correct AD. But, you will only be able to vote on the machine, if you are at the correct polling booth for your ED.
DO: Far in advance of election day, find out your ED/AD and polling site. According to the BOE’s website, you can find you poll site location by:
Third Rule of Voting: Vote Early on Election Day
Go to the polls as early as possible to vote, especially this year when heavy voter turnout has been predicted. The polls are supposed to be open from 6am to 9pm. The later you vote, the more likely it will be that you run into long lines or broken voting machines. Also, the poll workers work an 18 hour day on Election Day, so they are generally not as fresh or attentive in the evening hours, as they were in the morning. If you run into problems when voting, for example, finding you proper polling site or booth, or getting a court order, you can correct it if it’s not the end of the day. Employers, with few exceptions, are legally required to give their employees two hours during the workday to go and vote.
If your poll is not open on time or appears to be inactive, report it! Call the BOE at 1866 Vote NYC. If your poll is not ready for business at 6am, wait for the time it takes, rather than come back in the evening when it’s sure to be crowded. If you can, assist others in getting to the polls.
Fourth Rule of Voting: No Candidate Gear at the Polls
The BOE has clearly stated that anyone wearing clothing or carrying signage for a candidate will not be allowed to enter or remain at the polls. This is considered electioneering and is illegal in New York. Please remove or cover your clothing sporting the name or likeness of any candidate, before you enter the poll or you may be escorted out. Definitely do not bring any signage into the polls. However, you can carry in written materials for your personal use, such as palm cards, into the polling site and even into the voting machine booth with you.
Fifth Rule of Voting: Handle voting problems wisely.
Problem: If the voting machine breaks --
DO NOT: Never leave the poll booth area without voting.
DO NOT: Vote with a red and white Affidavit Ballot envelope
DO: (1) Request to vote on the BMD machine; the machine will generate a paper ballot which the poll workers will place in a cardboard ballot box. Your vote will definitely count.
OR (2) After the machine has been broken for 15 minutes, demand to vote on an Emergency Ballot, which is a paper ballot without the Affidavit envelope. Follow the instructions for completing the ballot. If you need help understanding the ballot or completing the paper ballot, ask a poll worker for assistance. Your vote will definitely count.
Problem: If Your Name Is Not Found in Any of the Books of Registered Voters –
DO: (1) Double check to make sure that you are at the correct ED/AD. You name will only be in the book of voters for your correct ED/AD. (See Second Rule of Voting above on how to find your correct ED/AD.)
(2) There will be two sets of books: the regular books (A-L & M-Z), and the supplemental list. Make sure that the poll worker carefully looks for your name in both sets of alphabetized books. Spell you last name slowly and repeat it, if necessary; even better, write it down and show him/her. Look, without touching the book, to make sure that s/he is looking for your name at the right location within the books.
(3) If you are at the correct ED/AD, and your name still cannot be found, (make sure that they looked in the supplemental list/book.)
· Ask for and accept a paper ballot and Affidavit (“A”) envelope. Carefully follow the instructions for completing the ballot and the Affidavit envelope. Complete it at the poll. Take your time; mistakes can cost you your vote. If you need help understanding or completing the paper ballot or the envelope, ask a poll worker for assistance. The Affidavit ballot is a provisional vote. Your vote will count only if the BOE can verify that you are a registered voter on their database.
· Try to get a court order to vote on the machine, if you have the time. (See Lost your Vote by Mistake on the Voting Machine below.)
Explanation: A voter’s name may not be in the book of registered voters because the voter moved and did not re-register, and was legally removed from the book, or the voter had not voted for a “several” years and the BOE “purged” her/him from the book even though they are legally registered. In the latter case, BOE says if the voter is found in the database, the “A” ballot will be counted as valid.
Problem: If You Lost Your Vote by Mistake on the Voting Machine
DO: Try to Get a Court Order
The poll worker cannot let you vote twice on a voting machine, even if you lost your vote by mistake. But, you can go to the BOE office in your borough (or in Harlem at the State Office Building) during voting hours and speak to a NYS judge about the problem you had voting. This is a very informal process, neither a lawyer nor knowledge of the law is necessary. Just tell the judge what happened. If the judge feels it is justified, he/she may issue you a court order which will allow you to vote on the machine back at your polling site. However, you must make it back to your polling site and be in line to vote by 9pm.
Technically, you can go to the judge for any voting problem, including not being in the books of registered voters at your polling booth. For problem other than mistakes in voting on the machines, however, you may have to show some evidence that you should be able to vote.
During this important election, all citizens should be able to exercise their right to vote -- every vote should count. Be a wise voter. Don’t lose you vote!
If you experience a problem during the election, call the VOTER PROBLEM HOTLINE:
Board of Elections -- 1 866 VOTE NYC (1 866 868 3692)