WHY VOTE ?
The people who hold office – for example, a mayor or member of Congress – make decisions about things that are important to you, like financial aid for schools, health care, immigration. Voting is your chance to choose the decision-makers and tell them what you want.
You may vote if you are:
- a United States citizen
- 18 years old by election day (you may pre-register to vote when you are still 17 years old)
- A resident of your county, city, town or village for at least 30 days before Election Day
You may not vote if you are:
- In jail, prison, or on parole for a felony conviction. (Once parole is complete, you will be eligible to vote.)
WHAT YOU’LL VOTE ON
- President and Vice President of the United States
- U.S. Congress
- Governor and Lieutenant Governor of New York State
- New York State Legislature
- Mayor or Supervisor and other elected officials in your community
- Local school board
- Fire district officers
Propositions or Proposals (ballot measures) for such items as:
- Money for schools or roads
- Amendments to the New York State Constitution
- Proposed laws
REGISTERING TO VOTE
You need to register before you can vote. You will also need to re-register if you’re moving into Rensselaer County from another county. If you don’t leave the county but simply move to a new location in the county, just notify the Board of Elections with a change of address postcard.
You can register:
- In person. You may register to vote on any business day at the Board of Elections of Rensselaer County at 1700 7th Avenue, Troy, NY, 12180. You may be asked to show a valid photo ID or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that shows your name and address. You can also register in person at places like motor vehicle offices and certain state agency offices.
- By mail. Call the Board of Elections of Rensselaer County at 270-2990 and ask them to send you a voter registration form or pick up a form at the Board of Elections, city or town halls, post offices, political party offices, various state agency offices, or your local library. You can also download a voter registration form from the Board of Elections of Rensselaer County website. Just fill it in and mail it back.
Party affiliation. You are not required to choose a party affiliation when you register to vote, but doing so will allow you to vote in primary elections held by political parties (otherwise you can only vote in general elections). Also, only enrolled party members can sign nominating petitions which are circulated by candidates seeking public office.
- Members of the Armed Forces. Special rules make it easy for members of the Armed Forces to vote. Every unit in the military has a voting officer to assist members with voting.
- College students. You may vote in person by registering to vote in your college community or you may register in your hometown and vote with an absentee ballot.
- Disabled voters. See BEFORE ELECTION DAY below.
TIMING of ELECTIONS
- Primary elections – several months before general elections from 12:00 noon to 9:00 p.m.
- General elections – Election Day in the United States is the Tuesday following the first Monday in November. It can fall on or between November 2 and November 8. Voting hours are 6:00 a.m. to 9:00 p.m.
- Elections for school board members and school budgets– on the same day in May throughout New York State
- Fire Districts – second Tuesday of December from 6:00 p.m. to 9:00 p.m.
- Other local elections – Spring.
DECIDING HOW TO VOTE
Sources of information on candidates and issues include:
- Newspapers, TV and radio, campaign ads and debates
- The web (See especially the League of Women Voters online voters guide — referred to as Vote411 — which can be accessed during the campaign season from the LWVRC website.)
- Local candidates forums
- Friends and family
BEFORE ELECTION DAY
- First-time voters or those re-registering. Call the Board of Elections of Rensselaer County to be sure you’re not already on the list of registered voters before you fill out a new form (see “Registering to Vote” above).
- Absentee voters. If you can’t go in person to vote on Election Day, you must complete an absentee ballot application. You can obtain this application from the Board of Elections of Rensselaer County. If you request an application by mail, you must do so by seven days before Election Day or in person up until the day before Election Day. Your ballot must be postmarked by the day before the election or hand-delivered to the Board of Elections on Election Day.
- Disabled voters. Many polling places are now accessible to the handicapped. If yours is not, you may ask to have your records transferred to a nearby accessible polling place where the ballot will be the same as in your election district. This request must be made at least two weeks before the election. You may also vote by absentee ballot. If you have a long-term illness or disability, you can apply for a permanent absentee ballot and you will automatically receive your ballot before each primary and general election.
ON ELECTION DAY
- Avoid the crowds. Go to the polls during off hours: 10:00 a.m. to 11:30 a.m. and 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. If you go during peak hours, you may need to be prepared to stand in line but do stay and vote. Even if you have to wait a few minutes, your vote counts towards the outcome of the election.
- Take a friend to vote. Why go alone when you can take a friend or family member with you to vote?
- Go to the right place. Know where your polling place is before you leave home. You should get a card or letter in the mail telling you where you should go to vote (usually a nearby public building). If you are unsure about the polling place, contact the Board of Elections of Rensselaer County.
- Bring ID. If you are a first-time voter who registered by mail, or you recently re-registered by mail, you will be asked to show identification (after the first time, you will not need your ID). Bring your driver’s license or another photo ID. In some places, a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck or other government document that includes your name and street address may also work.
- Check out the sample ballot. At the entrance to the polling place, look for a sample ballot. The ballot you take into the election booth should look exactly the same. It will show:
1.) the candidates and the offices they are seeking. You may see a candidate listed more than once. This is because they’ve been endorsed by more than one party. However, you can only vote for that candidate once.
2.) propositions or proposals. Look carefully for these ballot measures! They may not be easy to see as they are often located at the top, bottom or side of the ballot.
- Assert your rights. If you go to your polling place, you must be allowed to vote. You cannot be turned away. Don’t panic if you registered to vote but your name is not on the list. A poll worker can check to see if you are at the wrong polling place. If you are, they will direct you to the correct one. If you believe you are at the correct polling place, you should be given an affidavit or provisional ballot. Once the Board of Elections confirms that you are registered, your vote will be counted. You must be notified as to whether or not your vote was counted.
- Get help. Election inspectors (poll workers) are there to help you. Ask them for assistance. They’ll show you how to use the voting machines. You are also permitted to bring a relative or friend into the voting booth (but not your employer or union representative). Also read the Voters Bill of Rights and other instructional information which should be posted at the polling place. You are entitled to file a complaint.
Voting machines. New York State counties have converted from the old mechanical lever machines to new electronic machines so as to be in compliance with the Help America Vote Act. Rensselaer County has selected the so-called optical scan machines. Disabled voters should be able to find machines that will accommodate various disabilities.
- Sign in with election inspectors and pick up your paper ballot and privacy sleeve.
- Go to the voting booth and mark your ballot by filling in the oval next to the candidate you are selecting. Be sure to stay within the lines of the oval and fill it in completely. Don’t make any other marks on the ballot.
- Only vote for a candidate one time even if their name appears more than once on the ballot. If you over-vote, all your votes in that contest will be discounted.
- For write-in votes, fill in the box at the bottom of the column for each contest.
- Check both sides of your ballot. Propositions and proposals (ballot measures) may be on the reverse side.
- If you make a mistake on your ballot, do not try to correct it. Ask an inspector for a replacement ballot.
- When finished filling out your ballot, place it in the privacy sleeve and proceed to the optical scan machine.
- Insert your ballot in the scanner and wait for a message on the screen that your vote has been counted successfully.
See our “Links” button at the top of this page for more voting information.