Voting Rights

Eligibility to Vote

In New York State, in order to register and vote, you must be:

  • a United States citizen;
  • eighteen (18) years of age or older on Election Day or not later than December 31st of the calendar year in which you register; and
  • a resident of New York State and of the county, city or village where you will be voting for a minimum of 30 days before the election.

(Those who do not meet the thirty (30) day residency requirement, but meet all remaining criteria, will be permitted to vote by special ballot for president and vice-president.)

Registering to Vote

  • You can register in person at your County Board of Elections
  • You can call the New York State Board of Elections at 1-800-FOR-VOTE to request a voter application.
  • You can download a PDF version of the New York State Voter Registration Form.           

           Voter Registration Form [English] | [Spanish]                

            Print the form, complete and sign it, and mail it to your County Board of Elections.

  • You can also register to vote at your local DMV Office when you apply for or renew your New York State Driver’s license or ID card, or register to vote at a wide variety of other New York State agencies

In New York, the following offices must provide you with voter registration services:

  • Any local board of elections
  • The Department of Motor Vehicles
  • Alcoholism and Substance Abuse Services
  • City Universities of New York (CUNY)
  • Commission for the Blind and Visually Impaired
  • Commission on Quality of Care and Advocacy for Persons with      Disabilities
  • Department of Health - WIC Program
  • Department of Labor
  • Department of Social Services
  • Department of State
  • Division of Veterans’ Affairs
  • Military Recruiting Offices
  • Office for the Aging
  • Office of Mental Health
  • Office For People With Developmental Disabilities
  • State Universities of New York (SUNY)
  • Vocational and Educational Services for Individuals with Disabilities
  • Workers’ Compensation Board

Federal and State Voting Rights Protections

Multiple federal and state laws prohibit discrimination based on race, national origin and disability status.  There are also laws requiring that bilingual assistance and materials be provided to voters who are limited English proficient. 

If you believe you have been the victim of voting discrimination or if you have encountered a barrier while seeking to register or exercise the right to vote, please contact the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's Office at (212) 416-8250 or civil.rights@ag.ny.gov

Voting Rights Act of 1965

Following passage of the 14th and 15th Amendments, many states erected barriers to the franchise that denied African Americans access to the ballot box for decades.  In 1965, Congress passed the Voting Rights Act to help give meaning and force to the protections enshrined within the 14th and 15th Amendments.  The Voting Rights Act contains a number of important provisions which collectively prohibit state or political subdivisions from imposing qualifications or prerequisites to voting that result in the denial of the right to vote on account of race or color.  

Section 5 of the Voting Rights Act requires certain covered jurisdictions - including Bronx, Kings and New York Counties in New York State - to obtain federal review of any changes to its voting practices, or procedures before they can be implemented.  Federal review can be obtained administratively through the U.S. Department of Justice or judicially through the D.C. District Court.  The Section 5 preclearance provision continues to play an important role in remedying and preventing ongoing discrimination.  To that end, New York State Attorney General Eric Schneiderman, joined by the Attorneys General of Mississippi and California, filed an amicus brief in Shelby County, Alabama v. Holder, a case challenging the constitutionality of this core provision of the Voting Rights Act.  The brief highlights the important role that Section 5 plays in both blocking and deterring discriminatory voting changes, and in eliminating barriers to political participation.  A full copy of the brief is available here .

Section 2 of the Voting Rights Act applies nationwide and prohibits practices that can dilute minority voting strength or deny the right to vote on account of race. 

To report a potential violation of the Voting Rights Act or other act of voting discrimination,

please contact the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's Office at (212) 416-8250 or civil.rights@ag.ny.gov

Language Access Assistance

Language assistance at the polls may be necessary to ensure that all voters are able to cast an effective and meaningful ballot.  In New York State, if you are a Limited English Proficient (LEP) person, depending on your County, you may be entitled to receive assistance at the polls, including translated ballots and other election-related materials. To report a problem concerning language assistance or any other language barrier which impacts the ability to register or exercise the right to vote, please contact the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's Office at (212) 416-8250.

The federal Voting Rights Act contains a number of provisions that provide protections for voters and prospective voters who require language assistance.  In New York State, under Section 203 of the federal Voting Rights Act, the following counties must provide language access services during elections (with applicable population in parentheses):

  • Bronx (Hispanic)
  • Kings (Hispanic and Chinese)
  • Nassau (Hispanic)
  • New York (Hispanic and Chinese)
  • Queens (Asian Indian - Bengali, Chinese, Hispanic, and Korean)
  • Suffolk (Hispanic) and
  • Westchester (Hispanic). 

All registration or voting notices, forms, instructions and other written materials or information relating to the electoral process, including ballots, must be provided in the applicable languages.

Under Section 4(e) of the Voting Rights Act, counties or jurisdictions in New York are prohibited from denying any citizen educated in American Flag schools in Puerto Rico and other U.S. territories the right to vote because of his or her lack of English proficiency.

Under both the Voting Rights Act and New York Election Law, voters are entitled to receive assistance from the person of their choice.  This provision provides important protections for those voters who require assistance based on a disability, blindness or illiteracy, and also for those voters those do not have access to translated election materials in their jurisdiction.

Accessibility for Persons with Disabilities

Under federal and state law, persons with disabilities are entitled to assistance with voter registration, accessible polling sites, and assistance with casting their ballot.  If you have a disability and believe you have been denied your right to assistance while voting or registering to vote, please contact the Civil Rights Bureau of the New York State Attorney General's Office at (212) 416-8250 or Civil.Rights@ag.ny.gov.

New York Election Law

Under New York law, a board of inspectors at a polling site must assist any voter who, under oath, states a need for assistance because he/she:

  • cannot read and therefore requires assistance, or
  • cannot, even with the aid of glasses, see the names printed on the official ballot, or
  • is so physically handicapped that he/she cannot do what is needed to vote at that polling place (e.g., turn down the levers, use a write-in slot on a voting machine or mark a paper ballot), or
  • cannot enter a voting booth unless aided by another person.

The voter may elect to  be assisted by a person of his/her choice, aside from an employer (or employer's agent) or agent of the voter's union.  If the voter does not select a specific person, he/she will be assisted by two election inspectors, each from a different party. 

Each polling precinct must also make available the following registration and voting aids for the handicapped and elderly:

  • instructions, printed in large type, conspicuously displayed at each permanent registration facility and each polling place, and
  • information by telecommunications devices for the deaf. 

A voter with a disability whose polling place is in a building that is not accessible is entitled to vote at any other election district whose polling place is located in an accessible building (so long as the candidates and ballot proposals on the other district’s ballot are the same as those of the original district). 

Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA)

The Americans with Disabilities Act requires that “reasonable modifications to rules, policies, and practices” be made so as to prevent disability-based discrimination.  In practical terms, this means polling sites must, among many other requirements, have doorways that are wide enough, ramps placed at entrances and sufficient numbers of marked handicapped parking spaces.  For a checklist on what is necessary to ensure that your polling place is adequately accessible, click here .

The Impact of a Felony Conviction on the Right to Vote

A person with a felony conviction is entitled to register and vote once he/she has been discharged from parole.

A person convicted of a felony in the State of New York may register or vote at any election if:

  • he/she has been pardoned or restored to the rights of citizenship by the governor, or
  • his/her maximum sentence of imprisonment has expired, or
  • he/she has been discharged from parole.

A person convicted of a felony in a federal court may register or vote at any election if:

  • he/she has been pardoned or restored to the rights of citizenship by the president of the United States, or
  • his/her maximum sentence of imprisonment has expired, or
  • he/she has been discharged from parole.

A person who has been convicted in another state for a crime or offense which would constitute a felony in New York, may register or vote at any election if:

  • he/she has been pardoned or restored to the rights of citizenship by the governor or other appropriate authority of such other state, or
  • his/her maximum sentence has expired, or
  • he/she has been discharged from parole.

Military and Overseas Citizens

Under the federal Uniformed and Overseas Citizens Absentee Voting Act (UOCAVA), men and women in the military, and civilian citizens living overseas, are entitled to register and vote by absentee ballot and, additionally, may receive and submit their completed forms by mail, fax, or email.

Click here for applicable deadline dates and more information:

http://www.elections.ny.gov/VotingMilitaryFed.html

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