This article is adapted from our weekly Civic Newsroom newsletter, which is sent out every Tuesday. You can sign up here to get it or fill out the form at the bottom of this post.
We’ve heard from a lot of you asking about when and how to request an absentee ballot, and if that option is still available to everyone because of the pandemic.
We’ll cut to the chase: Yes, it is.
But what are all the details?
We talked with officials at the city’s Campaign Finance Board to get info on everything you need to know to vote absentee in the June 22 primary election.
So what’s an absentee ballot, again?
In short, an absentee ballot is a way to vote without going to the polls. People sometimes refer to absentee voting as “voting by mail.” But you can also drop an absentee ballot off at a voting site or any city Board of Elections office. You don’t necessarily need to mail it in.
Who can request an absentee ballot in this year’s local elections?
Because of the pandemic, anyone can request an absentee ballot this year.
In March 2020, state lawmakers passed a law that said a voter’s concern over spreading or getting COVID-19 counts as a “temporary illness” when asking for an absentee ballot.
That means that anyone can still claim “temporary illness” as a reason to request an absentee ballot, regardless of the availability of vaccines or any other factors that may have changed since last year.
Absentee ballots were previously only available for people who were unable to vote in person because they were out of town, had an illness or disability, were in jail or were in the military.
The expanded eligibility will last at least through the end of 2021.
Allie Swatek, director of policy and research for the NYC Campaign Finance Board, said: “All voters may request an absentee ballot, using COVID-19 as an excuse, for the June primary and even the November general election. This means that no voter will need to put their health at risk to make their voice heard in our city elections.”
How do I request an absentee ballot?
You can request an absentee ballot online here or by calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC. If you request it online, you’ll get a confirmation number from the city Board of Elections, then you can track your ballot here.
You can find the address here:
When can I request an absentee ballot? (And when is the deadline to do so?)
You can request one any time before June 15 to vote in the June 22 primary.
But an important note: The deadline to request an absentee ballot may change to June 7. There’s a relevant state bill passed by the Senate and Assembly that Gov. Andrew Cuomo has yet to sign. The measure would move the deadline date up to give the U.S. Postal Service more time to get the ballots out before the election.
So, just to be safe, you might want to request your ballot before June 7.
When can I expect to get my ballot?
Even though you can make the request right now to get an absentee ballot, you won’t actually get your ballot in the mail until at least the last week of May. That’s because Board of Elections officials are still determining which candidates will be on the ballot, and they have a policy of not sending out ballots until 32 days before the election.
So, if you try to track your ballot online and it says “pending,” don’t worry. It should be sent out next month.
What do I need to know when filling out my absentee ballot?
You want to make sure you fill out your ballot correctly when you vote absentee. An error could get your ballot thrown out. This year, with the advent of ranked choice voting in New York City, be careful not to rank two candidates in the same column. That’s called overvoting, and it makes your ballot invalid.
With ranked choice voting, you’ll be choosing up to five candidates in order of your preference. (Check out our newsletter on the new method if you’re a little fuzzy on the details.)
Here’s the wrong and the right way to fill out your ballot:
When mailing your ballot, keep these things in mind:
After you fill out your ballot, put it in what’s called the oath envelope (the smaller one with the signature line). Then, sign the outside of the oath envelope and put it in the mailing envelope.
The mailing envelope will be pre-addressed to your county board of elections office, but you need to use your own stamps.
Campaign Finance Board officials recommend putting on three stamps, just to be safe.
You need to mail your ballot by the day before election day. As long as it arrived postmarked on or before June 21, you’re good.
But you don’t have to mail it. Here’s how to drop it off.
You can drop off your absentee ballot at any city Board of Elections office, any early voting poll site or any election day poll site up until when the polls close on June 22. You can find your polling place here.
Early voting runs from June 12 to 20. You can find your early voting sites here.
Again, here’s where the Board of Election offices are:
Note: You can also drop off absentee ballots for other people, as long as they’re properly signed and sealed.
What if I decide I want to vote in person but I already requested an absentee ballot?
That’s OK! You can still vote early or on in person June 22 even if you requested an absentee ballot. You can find your polling place here.
So one more time, these are the key dates
- Request your absentee ballot by June 15 ( and to be extra safe by June 7).
- If you request now, expect to get your absentee ballot in the mail the last week of May.
- Mail your absentee ballot by June 21, or drop it off by the time polls close on June 22.
A few more tools for you
- Need to figure out what City Council district you live in? Look here.
- Need to figure out who’s running for City Council in your district? Check out this map.
- Need to know how ranked choice voting works? Here’s our breakdown.
- Not sure if you’re registered to vote? Go here.
We recently launched Meet Your Mayor, our quiz-driven interactive tool that shows you how the candidates match with your take on the issues that matter most to New Yorkers. The latest installment focuses on housing.
Got some time? Here are some upcoming campaign events
- Tuesday, April 13, 6 p.m. — New Yorkers for Culture & Arts City Council Candidate Forum : Queens Districts 22, 25, 26, 32
- Tuesday, April 13, 7 p.m. — Great Harlem Unite Manhattan Borough President Youth Issues Forum
- Wednesday, April 14, 9:30 a.m. — Mayoral Forum on Aging hosted by LiveOn NY and City Limits
Speaking of events: Our next Civic Newsroom meeting is April 14. We are returning virtually to Mott Haven, Brownsville and Flushing.
Here are details for the second round of sessions:
- Brownsville meeting: Wednesday, April 14, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sign up here.
- Mott Haven meeting: Wednesday, April 14, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sign up here.
- Flushing meeting: Wednesday, April 14, from 6 p.m. to 8 p.m. Sign up here.
What are your election questions?
If you have any questions about the election process or any other information when it comes to voting in New York, let us know by sending a note to email@example.com.
What else we’re reading
- THE CITY reported on a candidate running in three parties in one Brooklyn district and a new super PAC injecting cash into local races. (Check out our explainer on big money in local politics to see why that matters.)
- The Daily News asked the mayoral candidates where they stand on property taxes.
- City & State wrote about the end of the Zoom campaign — and how candidates are looking to ramp up in-person events.
- City Limits rounded up candidates’ new policies introduced this week.
- Gothamist delved into controversial campaign comments made about street vendors.
- The New York Times took stock of the mayoral race with just 10 weeks until Election Day.
You can sign up to get these updates to your email inbox or as a text message every Tuesday here.
Additional reporting by Abē Levin, Emily Löwinger, Catherine Montesi, Alejandra Pedraza, Elizabeth Richards and Kayce Stevens, who are students from the Craig Newmark Graduate School of Journalism at CUNY participating in the Civic Newsroom.