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Early voting in New York starts Saturday

Oct 22, 2020

Early voting begins in New York on Saturday, and continues through Nov. 1, two days before Election Day.

The number of polling places vary from county to county, but each county is required to have at least one early voting polling site. In larger counties with multiple sites, one has to be in the largest urban area. 

Susan Lerner with the government reform group Common Cause has been closely monitoring the early voting procedures.

“There are polling locations open in every single county, they are often different than your Election Day polling place because there are fewer of them,” said Lerner.

She said that in all counties outside of New York City, voters can vote at any of the early polling sites, not just the one nearest to their home.

“The hours that they are open differ from county to county,” said Lerner, who advises voters to look online to find out the details of each polling site.  

There are a few places to find out more details on where and when to vote. Lerner said voters can go to a website created by pro-voting groups called EarlyNY.org.

The New York State Board of Elections also has the specific locations and their hours on its website, as does the League of Women Voters.

The League’s Jennifer Wilson said her site also gives other helpful information to help voters who are making their plans to cast their ballot early, including whether the polling site is accessible to people with disabilities, and whether there is parking nearby.

“We have all kinds of information on our website for voters,” Wilson said.

Absentee voting, or voting by mail, is also an option.

Due to health and safety concerns during the COVID-19 pandemic, New York state laws were changed earlier this year to allow anyone who is registered to vote to request an absentee ballot.  There’s still a few days left to get one.

The Board of Elections said the cutoff date for requests by mail, email or telephone is Oct. 27. The board warned, though, that the U.S. Postal Service said because of recent cutbacks, it cannot guarantee timely delivery of ballots that are requested 15 or fewer days before the election.

Lerner said New Yorkers who have not yet requested a ballot, or not mailed it in, need to hurry.

“The key is not to wait until the last moment,” said Lerner, who added voters should put their absentee ballots in the mail as soon as possible.

“Right now,” Lerner said. “I wouldn’t wait any longer.”

She said for procrastinators, it might be better to just vote early in person starting Saturday, or to drop off their absentee ballot at any early voting polling site.

The absentee ballots can also be hand-delivered to the regular poll sites in person on Nov. 3. If they are sent through the postal service, the ballots must be postmarked by Nov. 3, or they won’t count.