Inactive voter status: Here's what to do if you can't vote
- Registered can look up their polling place at Vote.org. Some polling places may have changed because of COVID-19.
- If you name isn't in the poll book, check if you're registered somewhere else, or request an affidavit ballot.
- It is illegal to require someone to show photo ID in order to vote, or to harass or intimidate voters in any way.
- If you have a disability or do not speak English, you can ask for assistance in a variety of ways.
Though millions of New Yorkers have already voted in the upcoming election using absentee ballots or early voting, millions more will visit the polls on Tuesday.
But voting rules can be complex and finding and traveling to the correct polling place can be a hassle depending on an individual’s circumstances. Once at a polling location, some will face difficulties verifying their voter eligibility and getting their ballots.
Here’s what to do if you run into issues at the polls.
If you don’t know where to go to vote
If you're a registered voter, you can find your polling place by entering your address at Vote.org or the state's locator page: voterlookup.elections.ny.gov. The polling location address and hours will be listed.
Note that some previous polling locations may be closed for voting this year due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Make sure you've located the correct polling place before you head out.
If your name isn’t in the poll book or is 'inactive'
Spell out your name clearly. Ask the poll worker to double check for your name on the list of registered voters. If it’s not there, ask if there is a supplemental list of voters.
Ask if poll workers can check whether you’re registered to vote at another polling location.
You can often confirm your polling place online via your county’s Board of Elections website, or you can call 1-866-OUR-VOTE and ask for help verifying your polling place. If you’re registered in a different location, you’ll likely have to travel to that location to cast your ballot.
If poll workers can’t find your name and you can’t travel to a different location, ask for an affidavit ballot, which will allow you to cast your vote on Election Day.
Affidavit ballots are checked against voter records, and will be counted if the voters are indeed registered to vote. If you were ineligible in this election, you will be sent a form to register to vote in next year’s election.
If you are facing voter harassment, intimidation or illegal conduct
Under state and federal law, it is illegal for anyone to intimidate, threaten or coerce voters with the purpose of interfering with their right to vote.
Spreading false information about voting constitutes voter intimidation. Voters should know the following:
- It is illegal in New York to require voters to show photo ID in order to vote.
- You do not need to speak English to vote, in any state.
- You do not need to pass a test to vote, in any state.
Other actions that could constitute voter intimidation include groups trying to scare people out of the voting line or poll watchers standing in private voting areas or following voters in and around the polling location.
Behavior that has been found to constitute voter intimidation in the past includes threats of violence, eviction or business boycott against voters or publicly disseminating individuals’ names and addresses, or “doxing,” in an effort to vilify people for voting or their voting choices.
Individuals in New York who observe prohibited conduct can contact the Office of the Attorney General's Election Protection Hotline at 1-800-771-7755 or email firstname.lastname@example.org, or call the Election Protection Hotline, run by the Election Protection Coalition, at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
If you don’t speak English
Individuals who speak a language other than English, or are not fluent in English, can receive in-person assistance at the polls from the person of their choice, under federal law. They can bring a family member, friend, or another person as long as that person is not their employer, or agent of an employer or union, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.
Certain counties, including some in the New York City area, are covered by Section 203 of the Voting Rights Act and are required to provide bilingual assistance to voters in specific languages.
To check which counties provide that service in which languages, visit www.justice.gov/crt/language-minority-citizens.
If a county is required to provide bilingual voting assistance in a voter’s language, that voter can request assistance from a bilingual poll worker and ask for voting materials, such as a ballot, in that language.
Voters who speak languages other than English can call one of these hotlines:
Spanish: 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA / 1-888-839-8682
Arabic: 1-844-YALLA-US / 1-844-925-5287
English: 1-866-OUR-VOTE / 1-866-687-8683
Bengali, Cantonese, Hindi, Urdu, Korean, Mandarin, Tagalog, Vietnamese): 1-888-API-VOTE / 1-888-274-8683
If you have a disability
Under federal law, all polling places for federal elections must be fully accessible to older adults and voters with disabilities. Allowing curbside voting is not enough to meet Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) accessibility requirements.
For federal elections, every polling place must have at least one voting system that allows voters with disabilities to vote privately and independently, according to the ACLU.
Election officials (including poll workers) must make reasonable accommodations as needed to help you vote, and must provide you with help if it’s possible for them to do so. For example, if you find it difficult to stand in line, tell a poll worker and ask for assistance.
If you bring a person to assist you, let the poll workers know that when you check in. They may ask you to swear under oath that you have a disability and that you have asked that person to help you. Your helper may also be required to sign a form swearing that they did not tell you how to vote, according to the ACLU.
If you are not able to enter your polling place because the pathway to it is not fully accessible, ask poll workers for roadside assistance.
If you face any challenges in voting privately and independently or are unable to cast your vote, report the problem to the Election Protection hotline at 1-866-OUR-VOTE.
Sarah Taddeo is the consumer watchdog reporter for USA Today Network's New York State Team. Got a story tip or comment? Contact Sarah at STADDEO@Gannett.com or (585) 258-2774. Follow her on Twitter @Sjtaddeo. This coverage is only possible with support from our readers. Please consider becoming a digital subscriber.