Know Your Rights at the Polls on November 8

October 28, 2016

With Election Day just days away, voters should know their rights and what to expect when they get to the polls. Here are answers to some of the most common questions from voters.  

  • ID – do I need it?

In general, voters do not need to show ID in New York. The signature you inscribe in the poll book is proof of your identity. With one exception, poll workers are forbidden to ask you to show ID. 

The exception: If you registered by mail, did not provide ID at the time of registration, and this is your first time voting in a federal election, you may be asked to show ID. Acceptable forms of ID include a valid driver license or other state-issued photo ID, a current utility bill, a bank statement, or a government document that shows your name and address.

  • What if I am not listed in the poll book?

Ask the poll site inspector for help to confirm your address and that you are at the proper table for your Election District (ED) and Assembly District (AD). If your name does not appear in the poll book for your address, you can still vote with an affidavit ballot. Ask the poll site inspector for a ballot and follow the instructions for completing it. The NYC Board of Elections will check its records after the election. If you are eligible to vote and were at the correct poll site, your vote will be counted. If not, you will receive a notice from the BOE and a registration form for future elections. 

  • Can I wear a campaign shirt into the poll site?

State Election Law forbids electioneering in and around poll sites. This means that no one, especially poll workers, can urge voters to vote in a certain way or display any type of political banner, button, poster, or placard in or within 100 feet of the poll site. Voters may take campaign materials or any other type of written material into the voting booth with them, but they may not leave them in the booth or display them in any way.

  • What are poll watchers and what are they allowed to do?

Reports of an organized poll watching effort have raised concerns of voter intimidation on Election Day. Poll watchers monitor polling locations to check the work of election officials. Poll watchers may also challenge individual voters on the basis of signature authenticity, residence, qualification to vote, voting more than once, or electioneering. 

  • In New York, poll watchers must have a written certificate from the candidate, chairperson of a political committee, or chairperson of the independent body they are working for to enter a poll site. No more than three poll watchers per candidate, political committee, or independent body are allowed at a poll site; only one of the three is allowed within close proximity of an Election District table. 
  • Can I be challenged at the polls?

Yes, a challenge can be lodged against a voter by anyone (not just a poll watcher) on the following grounds:  

  • Qualification to vote: a voter must be 18 years old, a U.S. citizen, a resident of that state and county for at least 30 days, and must not have voted previously in the current election.
  • Felony conviction: a voter who has been convicted of a felony must have completed his or her sentence or had it suspended, been discharged from parole, or pardoned.

A voter cannot be challenged solely on the basis of having changed addresses within the same ED or having changed his or her name. If a voter has moved within the same ED or changed names, the poll worker will simply note the change, and the voter will vote. 

  • What will happen if I am challenged?

You can still vote! If you are challenged, a poll worker will ask you to sign a “preliminary oath” and then ask questions to determine if the challenge has merit. He or she may try to resolve the issue with you on the spot. If the worker still believes the challenge is warranted, you will be required to sign a “challenge oath” swearing that you meet the qualifications of an eligible voter. Once you sign these oaths, you may vote as normal.

  • Poll watchers may NOT interfere with the election process. 

Voter intimidation is illegal. These are some examples of voter intimidation:

  • Propagating false information about voter requirements or eligibility
  • Requesting ID at the poll site entrance
  • Using the challenge process to intimidate or slow the process
  • Stationing poll watchers, law enforcement, or people who look like officials outside poll sites, asking for names, etc.
  • What should I do on Election Day if I feel my voting rights are being violated?

Call one of these hotlines (open 6am-9pm):

Election Protection Hotline: 866-OUR-VOTE

NY Attorney General’s Hotline: 800-771-7755

Or email the Attorney General’s Civil Rights Bureau: