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How to Vote in New York’s 2020 Election: What You Need to Know

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En español | All New York voters who are worried about catching or spreading an illness will be able to cast an absentee ballot in November, allowing residents to vote safely from home amid the coronavirus pandemic:

  • Rather than distributing absentee ballot applications to all registered voters, as New York did for its June primaries, voters will need to request their absentee ballots from local election officials. But absentee ballot restrictions will be relaxed this year, allowing anyone concerned about catching or spreading the virus to vote remotely.
  • This is the first presidential election in which voters can get to the polls ahead of Election Day. The early voting window will run from Oct. 24 to Nov. 1.
A man walks out of an absentee voting station after voting
ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP via Getty Images

Here’s what else you need to know:

How do I register to vote?

You can register online, by mail or in person. Access the state’s voter registration portal to register online. You’ll need information found on your state-issued driver’s license and the last four digits of your Social Security number. If you don't have that information you can download a voter registration form, fill it out and either mail or deliver it to your county’s board of elections. You’ll need to include a copy of a valid photo ID, a utility statement or a paycheck with your registration application.

You can also call 800-FOR-VOTE and request that a voter application be mailed to you. Registration forms must be postmarked by Oct. 9 and received by your county’s board of elections no later than Oct. 14 to vote in the November general election.

Use the state’s voter information portal to check whether you’re already registered or to update your registration information.

How can I get an absentee ballot? Are there important deadlines?

Absentee ballots in New York have traditionally been available to voters who are out of town on Election Day, have an illness or disability that prevents them from voting in person, are primary caregivers who cannot vote in person, are residents of a Veterans Health Administration hospital or are detained in jail but are otherwise eligible to vote.

But the state introduced no-excuse absentee voting for its June primary, mailing absentee ballots applications to all registered voters. And for November's general election, New York will allow all voters who are worried about catching or spreading COVID-19 to cast an absentee ballot.

Absentee ballot applications can be picked up at your county’s board of elections or you can download and print an application from the governor’s website. If you decide to return your application to the board of elections by mail, your paperwork must be postmarked by Oct. 27. If you decide to fill out an application in person, you must do so by Nov. 2. You can also request an absentee ballot online.

Your actual ballot must be postmarked by Election Day, Nov. 3, and received by election officials no later than Nov. 10. You can also drop your ballot off with your local board of elections on Election Day.

When is Election Day? When are polls open?

Tuesday, Nov. 3. Polls are open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m.

Can I vote in person before Election Day?

Yes, you can cast your ballot early, from Oct. 24 through Nov. 1. Polling sites and hours are determined locally — consult your county board of elections.

What form of identification do I need to vote?

New Yorkers are not required to present identification at the polls.

How do I know my absentee ballot is secure?

The county board of elections verifies voter enrollment and basic information before issuing a ballot. Envelopes are signed by the voter, and the signature can be compared with the one on file for authenticity. If someone has attempted to vote using your name on an absentee ballot and you show up to a polling location on Election Day, any absentee ballot returned by mail in your name will be discarded.

What is being done to make polling places safe from coronavirus?

Masks are required for all workers and voters. Election workers will also be provided personal protective equipment, and everyone at polling locations will be asked to social distance. Hand sanitizer will also be available. In April, Gov. Cuomo ordered all New Yorkers over age 2 to wear face coverings in public when social distancing is impossible.

Will I be able to vote in the same place as I always have?

Not necessarily. During the June primary, some polling places were moved away from senior centers and nursing homes because of the pandemic. Similar moves are expected in November. Check the state’s voter information portal for your polling place.

What are the key races in my state?

  • U.S. President
  • U.S. House: All 27 seats
  • State Senate: All 63 seats
  • State Assembly: All 150 seats

This story was updated on Sept. 1 with more information about requesting an absentee ballot. Voting rules and procedures may change before Election Day. We’ll update this story if they do, so bookmark this page and check back.

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AARP is urging older Americans to ask the candidates five key questions:

  • Just over half of all older Social Security beneficiaries rely on the program for at least 50 percent of their income. If elected, how will you ensure that current and future Social Security benefits are not cut as part of deficit reduction?
  • Half of the people with traditional Medicare spend at least a sixth of their income on health care. If elected, how will you protect Medicare from benefit cuts, as well as lower health care costs and ensure seniors continue receiving the affordable health care they have earned?
  • COVID-19 has caused death and suffering for too many older Americans who require long-term care. If elected, how will you make sure seniors can access safe and affordable long-term care at home, as well as in facilities like nursing homes and assisted living?

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