Yes, this is a New York specific story, so everyone who does not live in my wonderful state, please bear with me. I know this post may not apply to you, but perhaps it will encourage everyone in states with upcoming primaries to check their voting status.
You see, much like in Arizona, stories have been popping up of registered Democrats in New York who are finding that their registration information has been changed to indicate they are either Republicans, Independents, or not registered at all, thus disqualifying them from voting in the primary on Tuesday. For your own protection, here’s what you need to do to ensure that you do not lose you right to vote. And that begins with a couple of steps to take before you go to the polls.
WHAT TO DO BEFORE GOING TO THE POLLS (and do it as soon as possible)
Go to the NYSVoter Public Information – Voter Registration Search webpage. Fill in all of the information (name, birth date, address, county and zip code) then hit the search function. This should pull up information as to whether or not the state Board of Elections database has you listed there, and your name, party affiliation, status (active or inactive), the location of your polling place, and your voter district information.
If you are listed properly: PRINT THIS PAGE or TAKE A SCREENSHOT of it which can be transferred to your mobile device of choice. You may need this document later if your status is challenged at your polling place on election day.
If you are not listed (i.e., you get a message that says: “No matches found” ) go back and make sure you entered all the information correctly. If the search still comes up empty, try possible variations of the spelling of your last name. If that still doesn’t work, don’t worry just yet.
Find your local county’s voter information page. Use this NYS Board of Elections link to find your county on the New York State map, and click on your county to pull up a page with the applicable link to your county Board of Elections. Some counties provide you the means to check your registration online (mine does, thank goodness). If yours is one of them, follow the links provided to pull up your voter registration info and, if it is correct, PRINT OUT THAT PAGE or TAKE A SCREENSHOT of it, one which can be stored on a mobile device that you can bring with you to the polls.
If the county does not provide an online searchable database to check your registration, you should call the local county BOE office and explain your situation, and, ask them to check their records. You may need to go down to the BOE office itself to obtain proof of your registration and voter status.
In you can call this number to check your voter registration status: 1.866.VOTE-NYC (1.866.868.3692)
WHAT TO DO ON THE DAY OF THE ELECTION IF YOUR VOTER STATUS IS CHALLENGED
STEP FOUR If possible, make sure you bring a printed or electronic copy of your voter registration information with you to your poling place (See, steps 2 and 3 above).
If you are informed by a poll worker you are not listed as an eligible voter, here is the advice given by an NYS Board of Elections employee to ensure you are allowed to cast an official ballot:
So you go to your polling place and the nice little old lady tells you that she can’t find you in the pollbook. Do you know what your rights are at this point?
First, [bear] in mind that most of the people that work at the polls are not political hacks, but elderly people that work long hours to help serve their community. They are going to be overwhelmed and sometimes you will get the wrong information. Don’t take out your frustration on them.
Next, make sure they call the local board of elections to verify why you aren’t in the pollbooks. All boards should scan all the documents they receive with your name on it, even if your records aren’t complete. You have every right to see each document they have, because it’s public information. They should check to make sure they didn’t make a mistake, and will usually be very helpful in giving you all your options.
Next, Pollworkers are required to show you a “notice to voters.” This document tells you that you have two options: affidavit ballot or court order. . Is this going to be extra work? Yes. If you’re unsure about your voter status, give yourself plenty of time to vote […]
If you seek a court order, you will be required to meet with the local State Supreme Court Judge on call, and the Board of Elections. Many of these judges are very liberal in their rulings, often side with the voter. You will then be issued a document that you can bring to the polling place that allows you to cast your ballot INTO THE MACHINE.
If you choose the option to vote by affidavit ballot, you will be directed to a station within the polling place dedicated to this process. You will then be required to fill out what is essentially a registration form. TAKE YOUR TIME FILLING THIS OUT. It will be scrutinized by Election commissioners of both parties after the election. Your registration and party enrollment will be checked, and voted on by each commissioner to determine if the envelope should be opened and ballot counted. Generally speaking, the Democratic Commissioners will be more liberal and vote to count your vote and the Republican Commissioners will likely vote to not count your vote (shocking, I know.) One no vote negates the ballot.
This is why you need to bring a printed or electronic copy of your voter status with you. That should (not saying it will, but it should) be sufficient proof for the judge on call to rule in your favor. Heck, it might even be enough for a sympathetic poll worker to just give you a regular ballot, rather than insist that you either go the court order route or vote using an affidavit ballot.
AVOID voting by AFFIDAVIT BALLOT, unless you have no other option. Chances are good that affidavit ballots will not be counted. So, if at all possible, go the court order route if your right to vote is challenged.
I hope that most New York voters in the Democratic Primary this coming Tuesday will not find themselves in this situation, and will be allowed to vote for the candidate of their choice. However, forewarned is forearmed. Be prepared for the worst case scenario, no matter how unlikely you think it may be.
Because as voters all across the country this year have discovered, our election laws and procedures are often obscure, byzantine and easily misinterpreted, and your ability to exercise your right to vote may very well be disrupted and/or suppressed Just ask the good people of Arizona, where the Clinton and Sanders campaigns, along with the Democratic party have filed a lawsuit against the State of Arizona, Arizona Secretary of State Michele Reagan, the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors and Maricopa County Recorder Helen Purcell for suppressing the vote.