At the Friends of Crown Heights School (Scott Heins / Gothamist)
Today is the day the sclerotic pistons of democracy fire up into action! If you are registered to vote with a political party in New York (registered Democrats significantly outnumber other parties in New York), you can decide who will be on the ballot in the general election in November by participating in today’s primary election. Transmute those feelings of fear, cynicism, and apathy into knowledge, hope, and action! Get a nifty sticker to show off to colleagues and loved ones! Eat free hot pot! Excelsior!
May I vote?
If you’re a registered with one of the eight political parties that are holding primaries today, yes, but by far the most consequential of those is the Democratic primary. You can find out if you’re registered to a party here. Because New York State is, as one good government expert recently explained to us, “as retrograde a democracy as you can find in America,” you would have had to register to vote and register with a party by August 19th. Already registered to vote but not registered with a party? Sorry, you would have had to do that last October.
The deadline to register with a party so you can vote in the 2019 primaries is October 12, 2018, so maybe take care of this now so you aren’t cursing your future self later. You can register in-person at a Board of Elections office or a participating state agency like the DMV, or register online at the DMV. If it’s your first time voting, bring some form of ID—a driver’s license, utility bill, etc. If you’re homeless, and registered to a party, you can vote. If you’re a convicted felon on parole, there’s a good chance you can vote (though many of New York’s official election websites aren’t up to speed on this policy change).
Where can I vote?
When can I vote?
If you’re reading this in New York City, on Long Island, or in Westchester, Rockland, Orange, Erie, Putnam, or Dutchess counties, the polls open at 6 a.m. and close at 9 p.m. If you are inside your polling station at 9 p.m., you have the right to vote.
Fun fact: if you’re anywhere else in New York State, the polls for a primary election aren’t open until noon. Why? That’s New York’s election laws for you. Apparently, everyone upstate sleeps til noon!
“Every single primary election we get calls from people who are disenfranchised by this,” says Susan Lerner, the executive director for Common Cause. “People who are not aware that there are actually two different time schedules for primary voting in this state, and who can’t go later in the day and go to their polling places before noon.”
Lerner places the blame for this reality on “state legislators, people in Albany who have refused to reform our voting laws for more than a century, who are more than content to have New Yorkers discouraged from voting, and who will then stand up and piously whine about low turnout rates.”
Lerner added, “and the only thing that will change is it if they are called on the hypocrisy.”
What if I can’t make it to the polls?
You would have had to register for an absentee ballot before today, but you can still send a representative to the BOE office in your borough with a letter of authorization to receive an absentee ballot on your behalf. The completed ballot must be returned by 9 p.m. More on absentee ballots here.
What if my polling place is complete pandemonium? Or the line to vote is down the block? Or I suspect illegal electioneering is happening? Or some other weird stuff is going down in the Sacred Halls Of Democracy/Elementary School Gymnasium?
“Voting is a fundamental right — and all eligible voters should be able to freely exercise that right,” Attorney General Barbara Underwood said in a statement. “Any New Yorkers who encounter barriers to voting or other problems at their poll sites should immediately contact my office.”
The AG urges voters experiencing problems or issues at the polls to call their hotline at 800-771-7755 or email firstname.lastname@example.org at any time between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. Attorneys in the Civil Rights Bureau will be standing by to take your calls and emails.
(You can also send tales of woe to email@example.com)
May I take a ballot selfie and post it to Instagram to show my friends and loved ones how seriously (and sexily) I take representative democracy?
If your ballot is blank, you can take a picture of it and post it to social media without incident. But a federal judge ruled last year that you may not take a photo of your filled-out ballot. The judge also upheld New York City’s ban on photography in polling sites (for journalists, the rules and guidelines can be a little trickier). Broadcast your civic participation the old fashioned way, with a sticker.
I’m a Democrat. Who’s running in my primary? And who should I vote for?
Governor Andrew Cuomo is facing a spirited challenge from actor and education activist Cynthia Nixon, Brooklyn City Councilmember Jumaane Williams is giving Lieutenant Governor Kathy Hochul a run for her money, and the four-way contest for Attorney General is wiiiiiiiiiiide open. And those are just the statewide races!
To find out who is running in your district, put your address into Gothamist and WNYC’s voter guide and you’ll get a nice summary of the candidates courtesy of our friends at Gotham Gazette and City Limits. New York City’s Campaign Finance Board also issues a reasonably handy voter guide you can read here.
Will North Brooklyn State Senator Martin Dilan’s real estate donations sink his reelection campaign? Can voters trust his opponent, Julia Salazar?
Brooklyn State Senator (and ostensible Democrat) Simcha Felder gives Republicans their one-seat majority in the Senate. Will Blake Morris break through the ultra-Orthodox bloc to defeat him?
For all of WNYC’s and Gothamist’s election coverage, go here. Check back later in the day for our primary day liveblog (email tips and photos to firstname.lastname@example.org), and tonight and tomorrow for results and analysis.