How to Be a Better (NYC) Voter

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Waiting in line to vote in Brooklyn, in the 2008 election.

The New York City Board of Elections refers to the presidential election as the “Super Bowl” of election days. That’s because all eyes are watching. The board has already been under a high level of scrutiny this year for its handling of the presidential primary in April. As WNYC has reported, nearly 120,000 voters were purged from the rolls in the months leading up to that vote, causing widespread complaints on Primary Election day.

Here are steps voters can take to help improve their Election Day experience:

Check your voter registration information 

The easiest way is to go online.  If you don’t have a computer, use one at a public library. Go to the New York State Board of Elections web site. Right in the middle of the page it says: "Want to find out if you are registered and where to vote?" Click that button. Fill out the form. That will bring up your voter information.

Pay special attention to two pieces of information: write down your 1. Election District and 2. Assembly district. This will allow you to skip the information table at your poll site and go straight to the table where you will sign the poll book and wait for your specific ballot.

That’s going to save you time and hopefully move things along at your poll site.

Find your poll site

There’s a link to the poll site look-up on the New York State and New York City Board of Elections websites. If you just can’t access a computer, call 311 or 1-866-VOTE-NYC for any other voter information. Keep in mind that those phone lines are going to be swamped tomorrow. So do it now.

Time your vote

Polls are open from 6 a.m. until 9 p.m. Turnout is always higher for presidential elections. The lines will be longest during the morning rush hour, from 7 a.m. until 9 a.m. and then after work from about 6:30 p.m. until 8:30 p.m.

If your schedule allows it, hit the polls at midday. There may still be lines, but they shouldn’t be as bad. And you’ll be doing a solid for your fellow New Yorkers who don’t have that flexibility.

Pick your candidates (before you go to vote)

WNYC and Gotham Gazette teamed up on a voter guide. Take a look and make your choices. You can even write them down and bring them with you — just don’t show anyone else.

Also, you will now be allowed to wear campaign buttons, t-shirts or hats at the poll site.

What if there are lines at my poll site?

There will be lines at your poll site. So try to chill out. Those people are your neighbors. Say hello.

But wait times should not exceed more than 30 minutes. If they do, we want to know about it. If you signed up for our Electionland project you can text us that information. If you haven’t signed up yet, do it now by texting ELECTIONLAND to 69866.

Can I just vote online already?

No! There is no online voting in New York — or anywhere else in the country.

Be very suspicious of any text, email, post on Facebook or Twitter telling you ways to vote faster by going online or any other misinformation. Also, if your encounter people outside your polling site trying to tell you not to vote, or any other weird stuff like that, tell us at Electionland (and be specific!). We will be reporting those stories out.

There are also hotlines you can call:

New York State Attorney General:  1-800-771-7755 or email civil.rights@ag.ny.gov

United States Attorney's Office Southern District:

  • Voters in Manhattan, Bronx, Dutchess, Orange, Putnam, Rockland, Sullivan and Westchester counties: (646) 369-4739
  • Voters inBrooklyn, Queens, Staten Island, Nassau and Suffolk counties: (718) 254-6323                      

In addition, complaints of possible violations of federal election laws may be made directly to the Federal Bureau of Investigation at (212) 384-1000.

What if I get to my poll site and my name is not in the poll book?

Any voter who believes they are registered but their name is not showing up in the poll book has the right to vote by affidavit ballot. That’s a different paper ballot than the one you put into the scanner. This is the Board’s policy. But on Friday, a judge in federal court ordered the Board to amplify this to poll workers and voters. This is in response to a lawsuit over how the Board removes voters from its rolls — stemming in part from some of the reporting we have been doing about those Brooklyn voters who were improperly purged before the presidential primary. And that case is something we’ll be talking about long after Tuesday.

If you vote by affidavit ballot, fill out the form and envelope completely. After the election you will get a notice from the Board of Elections telling you whether your affidavit ballot is valid — meaning, telling you if your vote counts.

Security will be high — don't drive in midtown Manhattan if you can avoid it

At every election, the New York City Police Department is deployed to poll sites. Expect a beefed up presence across the rest of the city. Mayor Bill de Blasio and NYPD Commissioner James O’Neill have said there have been some non-specific terror threats made on social media. That’s familiar territory for the NYPD.

The larger issue may be at night when both presidential candidates will be in Manhattan for their respective Election night parties — Hillary Clinton at the Javits Center; Donald Trump at the Hilton Hotel in Midtown, just 25 blocks away. So that means streets closures and even more police and Service Secret presence, especially on the West Side.