Voting 101

What is this website for?

Have you ever not wanted to vote? If you have, you’re not alone; many people don’t vote because of many different reasons, but voting is important! Not just for the federal election, but for local elections too! Local elections are super important because local officials also make big decisions about our lives. We are trying to encourage more people to vote because we believe that voting is important, in order to appoint people who share similar beliefs. Voting is also important because it can help people who are underrepresented to get represented in the government.

This website contains the following sections:

Who created this website?

We are a group of concerned students participating in the Service Learning Project (SLP)’s Middle School Lab, to work on problems in our society today. SLP is a non-profit organization that provides opportunities for youth in grades K-12 to become leaders and agents of positive change in their schools and communities. Learn more: www.servicelearningnyc.org

Why You Should Vote

There are so many reasons why you should vote. First off, you’re voting for your rights, or if not, you’re voting for other people. You’re voting to make a change in the world. Many people believe that their vote doesn’t matter, but, if everyone thinks that, then there are no votes. To prove that your vote counts here is a list of things that you can impact because of voting: You can support LGBTQ+ rights, equality, taxes. If these things don’t matter to you, then vote for a candidate that you think will make the best choices for our city.

There are a lot of reasons why people don’t vote and we would like to change your mind on some of those reasons.

Reasons people don't vote

What happens if you don’t vote?

Think about your grandparents, and great grandparents, who fought to get the 19th Amendment passed so women could vote in the early 1900s.

Think about the Civil Rights activists who fought for the Voting Rights Act in the 1960s, so that our civil liberties would be protected. They fought tirelessly for us to be able to cast our ballots, yet so many just throw that right away.

When you don’t vote, you can end up with elected officials who won’t help defend your liberties, or help you where help is needed most. Not exercising your constitutional right of voting is silencing your voice, and is effectively preventing you from creating change.

In addition, in some states, when you don’t practice your right to vote, you can be purged, and removed from the voting registry. But, don’t let this get you down. We have the power to take down voter suppression by practicing our right to vote, and ensuring that elected officials will protect our fundamental right.

When you vote, you are speaking for your children, and helping those in your community. Many don’t vote because they don’t love the candidates, but you will be much less likely to feel happy with a candidate if you don’t vote in primaries and give yourself a say in who has the possibility of winning. That said, please vote, even if you don’t love the candidates. It will determine the future that your children and grandchildren live in, and will help change the world.

You have the power, and we can make a difference: one pen, and one ballot at a time.

How to Vote and Resources

In order to vote in elections in the United States, you must:

– Be a United States citizen;
– Be 18 years old by December 31 of the year in which you file this form (note: you must be 18 years old by the date of the general, primary or other election in which you want to vote);
– Be a resident of this state and the county, city or village for at least 30 days before the election;
– Not be in prison or on parole for a felony conviction (unless parolee pardoned or restored rights of citizenship);
– Not be judged mentally incompetent by a court;
– Not claim the right to vote elsewhere.

First, you need to register to vote. There are three ways to register: by mail, online, or in person.

MAIL

Print this PDF (you cannot sign digitally) at a UPS or Fed Ex store, or with a printer if you have one.

Mail to:
Board of Elections
32 Broadway, 7 Fl
New York, NY 10004-1609

Your form must be delivered or mailed at least 25 days before the next election for it to be effective for that election.

IN PERSON

Register in person at any NYC Board of Elections office. You can find the offices here.

OR

You may also obtain Registration Forms from libraries, post offices, and most New York City government agencies, or ask them to send you an application in the mail.

Call 1-866-VOTE-NYC (1-866-868-3692) or email your mailing address to vote@boe.nyc.ny.us with the name of your borough in the subject line.

ONLINE

To register online, you will need:
NYS driver license, permit, or non-driver ID card
ZIP Code currently on record
Register online by filling out this online form.

How do I find out where to vote?

Enter your address, or zip code, into this website and it will tell you your assigned polling station.

For directions, you can use Waze on your phone or Google Maps.

How to Fill Out a Ballot

It’s important to correctly fill out circles. These circles will correspond with the answer choices on the ballot.

You must completely fill in the circle. No check marks or x’s!

Here are some videos to help understand how to fill out a ballot:

What happens if I can’t vote in person?

You can vote absentee! First you need to request an absentee ballot. You can request one online here.

To fill out your absentee ballot, follow the instructions in this video:

What do NYC Elected Officials Do?

Mayor
The Mayor is like the president of the city; they’re right at the top of all of the positions. The mayor serves a four-year term and can be in office for two terms in a row. The mayor is in charge of appointing important people like the police commissioner and schools chancellor. The mayor also comes up with the city’s annual budget and can sign onto or overrule laws passed by City Council.

Comptroller
The comptroller is like the treasurer of the city. Just like the mayor, the comptroller serves four years with a two consecutive term limit just like most citywide elected officials. The comptroller has most of the control over the city finances. They verify invoices, oversee pension funds and settle financial claims with the city, they also advise the mayor and council about the finances. They are also third in line and would become interim mayor if there isn’t a public advocate either.

Public Advocate
The public advocate is the voice of New Yorkers in the city government. Just like the mayor and comptroller, the public advocate is a citywide position with four year terms and a limit of two consecutive terms. The public advocate is in charge of the city council meetings and is technically a member of the city council because they can submit legislation and participate in discussions, they just can’t vote. They’re also in control of addressing city complaints and making appointments to some city boards. They’re basically like the comptroller but slightly higher up.

District Attorney
There is one District Attorney for each borough, but they all do the same thing. Each DA serves a four year term. The Brooklyn and Manhattan DAs are on the same election cycle as the mayor and other municipal offices and will be elected in 2021. The Bronx, Queens and Staten island are on a different election cycle and are elected two years later, in 2023. The DA is kind of like the head police officer of the borough. They investigate and prosecute criminal conduct, handle criminal appeals and even work with victims of crime.

Borough Presidents
Like the DA, there is one borough president for each borough, but they all do the same thing. The borough presidents don’t have a lot of power, but they do advise the mayor. They comment on land-use in their borough. Advocate for their borough’s needs and appoint officials and community board members.

City Councilmembers
The City Councilmembers are like the Senate of the city. There are 51 City Council members that represent the 51 districts in NYC. Each City Councilmember serves a four year term and can serve two consecutive terms, but every 20 years there are two 2 year terms in a row, it’s confusing but you can read more about that here! The city council approves the city budget, and makes laws, They approve land-use changes like rezoning and can even override the mayor’s vetoes. They can also nominate half of the members of each community board.

Candidates for 2021 Election

In June, 2021, New Yorkers will have the opportunity to vote in primary elections for almost every single city office. Because of term limits, the majority of these elections will be very competitive, since none of the incumbents (the politicians currently in office) will be able to run again. The primaries are super important!

There are a lot of candidates running for office! We created a cheat sheet for you to read all about each candidate. The incumbents are marked with an asterisk (*)

It’s hard to read through every candidate’s website! That’s why Citizens Union takes the time to interview every candidate and compile them all in one place. Keep your eye out for the 2021 Primary candidate interview as we get closer to the election.

BRONX BOROUGH PRESIDENT

Fernando Cabrera 

Vanessa Gibson

Victor Gutierrez

Nathalia Fernandez

 

BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT

Robert Cornegy Jr.

Kimberly Council

Khari Edwards

Mathieu Eugene

Pearlene Fields

Jo Anne Simon

Lamor Whitehead-Miller

 

MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT

Lindsey Boylan

Elizabeth Caputo 

Brad Hoylman

Benjamin Kallos

Mark Levine

Kimberly Watkins 

 

QUEENS BOROUGH PRESIDENT

TBD 

(The 2020 special election is ongoing, with Donovan Richards having won the Democratic nomination and Joann Ariola the Republican nominee)

 

STATEN ISLAND BOROUGH PRESIDENT

Steven Matteo

Leticia Remauro

CITY COUNCIL

There are 51 City Council seats, and 35 of those seats are open in 2021!

 

You can find a list of all the candidates running for City Council at this link. To find out which City Council District you live in, enter your address here

Mayor
Public Advocate
Comptroller
District Attorney
Borough President

BRONX BOROUGH PRESIDENT

Fernando Cabrera 

Vanessa Gibson

Victor Gutierrez

Nathalia Fernandez

 

BROOKLYN BOROUGH PRESIDENT

Robert Cornegy Jr.

Kimberly Council

Khari Edwards

Mathieu Eugene

Pearlene Fields

Jo Anne Simon

Lamor Whitehead-Miller

 

MANHATTAN BOROUGH PRESIDENT

Lindsey Boylan

Elizabeth Caputo 

Brad Hoylman

Benjamin Kallos

Mark Levine

Kimberly Watkins 

 

QUEENS BOROUGH PRESIDENT

TBD 

(The 2020 special election is ongoing, with Donovan Richards having won the Democratic nomination and Joann Ariola the Republican nominee)

 

STATEN ISLAND BOROUGH PRESIDENT

Steven Matteo

Leticia Remauro

City Council

CITY COUNCIL

There are 51 City Council seats, and 35 of those seats are open in 2021!

 

You can find a list of all the candidates running for City Council at this link. To find out which City Council District you live in, enter your address here

What is ranked choice voting?

Ranked choice voting is a form of voting where you choose your first favorite choice, then your second and then your third. Then if one candidate has over 50% of the votes, they win.f no one candidate has more than 50% of the votes, the person with the least votes is eliminated and then the people who voted for that person have their second favorite candidate become their first choice. The person after that with the least votes gets eliminated and the people who voted for them get their second favorite candidate as their first choice, and it continues like that until there is one clear winner.

Why is it important? How does it help?
Ranked Choice Voting is important because it helps us not vote for the lesser of two evils, it allows us to vote for our favorite candidate without us having to worry that if our favorite doesn’t win, our least favorite choice will.

What elections use Ranked Choice Voting in NYC?
In 2021, we have multiple local primary elections that will use ranked choice voting in New York City. You will get to vote for your 5 favorite candidates for Mayor, Comptroller, City Council, and Borough President. You can find out more about RCV in NYC at Rank The Vote.

In Conclusion

In conclusion, voting is something we should all do. Voting may have issues, but it is what we have and voting is better than not voting at all. We hope you learned about voting and why you should do it. Next time there’s an election, stay informed and vote.

Please share this website! Local elections historically have very low voter turnout, yet our local politicians can have such a big impact on our daily lives. Your voice and the voice of all New Yorkers is so important in local elections. Thank you for sharing this website, and thank you for voting!