WHAT IF I’M AFRAID TO VOTE IN PERSON IN THE UPCOMING GENERAL ELECTION?

New York has several methods of voting in order to ensure that everyone has the opportunity to have their vote be counted.  New York began offering early voting in 2019.  Early voting sites are usually far less crowded than polling places on Election Day.  This year, early voting runs from October 24, 2020 through November 1, 2020.  Early voting polling places may be different from your usual polling place, but if you choose to vote early you can use any early voting polling place in your county of residence.  Check with your county’s Board of Elections for a list of early voting locations and operating hours.

Further, New York has made voting by mail (also known as absentee ballot) much easier.  In a law signed August 20, 2020, New York has added “fear of illness to self or someone else” to the list of eligible excuses to vote by mail.  This fear of illness includes COVID but is not limited to it.  Thus, if you believe that you could catch any illness from voting in-person, or if you believe you could spread any illness to any other person by voting in person, you may request an absentee ballot.  New York has also eliminated the requirement that absentee ballots may not be requested prior to 30 days before the election.  This allows New Yorkers to begin requesting absentee ballots as soon as possible.  Finally, New York now allows any ballot that is postmarked by Election Day to be counted, even if it is not received by the Board of Elections until later.

Voting by mail in New York is a two-step process.  In order to vote by mail, you must first complete an absentee ballot application.  You can request this ballot from the Board of Elections’ website.  This application will ask you to name the excuse you are using (such as fear of illness) to vote by mail.  Once you request the absentee ballot, the Board of Elections will mail it to you.  This is what you will fill out to vote.  The absentee ballots will include the proper return address, and must be returned to the Board of Elections in order to be counted.  Mail-in ballots can be returned to any county Board of Elections office, to any early voting site during the early voting period, or to any polling place on Election Day, as well as being mailed to the Board of Elections in the envelope provided with the absentee ballot.  More information on voting in the 2020 election can be found at the New York State Board of Elections website https://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingAbsentee.html or the New York State Early Voting website https://www.ny.gov/early-voting-and-absentee-voting-mail-or-dropbox.