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Voter Information

 

WHY VOTE ?

 The people who hold office – for example, members 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. 

VOTER REQUIREMENTS

 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 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

  Candidates:

·        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

 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 Rensselaer County Board of Elections 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 state agency offices. 

  ·        By mail.  Call the Board of Elections at 270-2990 and ask them to send you a voter registration form or pick up a form at city and town halls, post offices, political parties, or various state agency offices.  You can also download a voter registration form from the website of the League of Women Voters of New York State at www.lwvny.org.   Complete the form and mail it to the Board of Elections.   

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.  Also, only enrolled party members can sign nominating petitions, which are circulated by candidates seeking public office. 

Special circumstances:

  ·        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 PM.  

·        General elections - November from 6:00 AM to 9:00 PM.   

·        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 PM to 9:00 PM

·        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

·        Friends and family

 BEFORE ELECTION DAY

  ·        First-time voters or those re-registering.  Call the County Board of Elections to be sure you’re on the list of registered voters.

  ·        Absentee voters.  If you can’t go to vote on Election Day, you can ask the Rensselaer County Board of Elections for an absentee ballot application.  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 AM-11:30 AM and 1:30 PM-3:30 PM.  If you go during peak hours, you may need to be prepared to stand in line.

  ·        Take a friend to vote.  Why go alone when you take a friend or loved 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 vote (usually a nearby public building).  If you are unsure about the polling place, contact the Rensselaer County Board of Elections.  

  ·        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.  Bring your driver’s license or another photo I.D.  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 in 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.) ballot measures that are on the ballot.   Look carefully for 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.  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

Voting machines.  New York State counties are in the process of converting 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. In the 2009 elections, these machines will be available for handicapped voters. 

 Voting steps:

  1.  With the mechanical lever machines, step into the booth and close the curtain with the big lever.  That tells the machine you are ready to vote. 
  2. Review the ballot.
  3. Next to each candidate and ballot measure, you will see a little lever.  To vote, turn the lever all the way.  Do this again and again until you have selected all those candidates and ballot measures for which you wish to cast a vote.  You may change your mind and raise a lever at any time before you exit the booth.
  4. Write-ins.  You may write in the name of any person not listed on the ballot.  (You may ask a poll worker how to do this.)
  5. Exit the booth by pulling the big lever to open the curtain.  When you pull this lever, the machine records your vote.   
  6. At the end of each day, the poll workers go to each machine and count how many votes have been cast for each candidate in each machine.  If you think your voting device is not working properly, ask a poll worker to check it. 

More instructions to follow on how to use the new optical scan machines.

Stay and vote !!!  Even if you have to wait a few minutes, your vote counts and the outcome of the election will be important.

  See our “Links” page for more voting information.

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