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An early voting site in Manhattan, Oct. 30, 2020.

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NYC General Election Prep: What to Know Before Heading to the Polls

New Yorkers will soon lock in their choices for new local leaders for mayor and more. Here’s your guide on your civic duty: key dates, getting a ballot, who’s running and New York’s — count ‘em — five ballot proposal questions.

An early voting site in Manhattan, Oct. 30, 2020.
| Hiram Alejandro Durán/THE CITY

Ready to vote again?

Following a neverending primary in June, on Nov. 2 we’ll get to lock in our final choices for several open seats in city government. Not only are we choosing a new mayor, comptroller and five new borough presidents, term limits mean the bulk of the City Council is turning over, too.

The primary had relatively high turnout, as nearly three in 10 registered voters cast ballots (It’s a low bar). Now, the city returns to the polls to finalize our picks in the General Election.

But Election Day is merely the last day you can cast your ballot: Keep these key earlier dates in mind:

  • Oct. 18 — Last day you can request an absentee ballot online or by mail to vote at home or outside of the city. Request your absentee ballot from the city Board of Elections (BOE) here. You can mail your ballot in any time before Election Day.
  • Oct. 23 — The early voting period begins, running through Halloween.
  • Nov. 1 — Last day to request an absentee ballot in person.
  • Nov. 2 — Election Day and the last day to postmark your absentee ballot.

When do we get to see the candidates face off?

There are just two official mayoral debates before the general election, both sponsored by the Campaign Finance Board, for the mayoral candidates:

  • Oct. 20 — WNBC, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.
  • Oct. 26 — WABC, 7 p.m. to 8 p.m.

There is also an official public advocate debate, also sponsored by the CFB, on Oct. 19 from 7 to 8 p.m. It will be broadcast on Spectrum News NY1 and livestreamed on THE CITY.

Reminder: The general election does not use ranked choice voting like in the June primary. On Nov. 2, there’s no listed preference involved. You’ll choose just one person per office.

Still, there’s a lot to consider. Here’s what you need to know about the 2021 general election in New York City right now:

Who’s running, exactly?

The fight for mayor is the headline bout, but a handful of other citywide and borough offices are on the card, too.

To find out exactly who is on your ballot, use this tool from the city’s Board of Elections to find a sample ballot. Type in your address, click “Look Up,” then click “View Sample Ballot.”

The tool will also tell you your polling location for both early voting and Election Day voting. And remember: those two polling locations may be different from one another, so double check!

For more information on specific races, here are guides:

  • Mayor — Democrat Eric Adams and Republican Curtis Sliwa aren’t the only people running. Seven other candidates got a spot on the November ballot through third parties.
  • Citywide and borough races — Here’s who’s on the ballot for comptroller, public advocate, borough presidents and the Manhattan district attorney race.
  • City Council — We assembled this guide on the competitive City Council races this year, and made a map so you can look up who’s on your ballot in your district.

If you live in Harlem or the West Bronx, don’t forget: You might be voting in two special elections also set to take place on Nov. 2.

In Harlem’s Senate District 30, Brian Benjamin vacated his seat to become Gov. Kathy Hochul’s lieutenant governor. The Manhattan Democratic Party nominated Cordell Cleare — former chief of staff of Councilmember Bill Perkins — to the special election ballot in late September. She will appear on the ballot with Republican Oz Sultan and Shana Harmongoff of the “Hope 4 NY” party, BOE records show.

In The Bronx’s Assembly District 86, Assemblymember Victor Pichardo resigned his seat this summer. His replacement will be Democrat Yudelka Tapia, who is running unopposed in the special election, BOE records show. Tapia is a district leader and ran for City Council in the area earlier this year. She came in second place in June’s primary with 37.7% of the vote.

What’s up with these ballot questions?

Candidates aren’t alone on your ballot this November. You’ll also have five potential changes to the state constitution to consider, too.

The five ballot proposals touch on: political representation in Albany and Congress; environmental rights; voter registration rules and absentee balloting; and how New York’s civil court works.

We wrote this guide last week to help you (and ourselves, frankly) make sense of them.

If you want to jump straight to the text of each proposal, here is a list from the state Board of Elections, and guides on each question from the nonprofit political encyclopedia Ballotpedia.

What we’re reading:

  • After THE CITY reported on tax filings showing Brooklyn Borough President Eric Adams reported he does not live in his Brooklyn townhouse, the mayoral candidate conceded his accountant made “an incorrect decision” — and promised to resubmit the paperwork.
  • Who is Curtis Sliwa? We took a deep dive on the stranger-than-fiction timeline of the Republican mayoral candidate and longtime radio host. It’s a doozy.
  • Staten Island borough candidate and former ex-Rep. Vito Fossella flubbed an ethics test as he runs for BP, we reported.
  • Recap: Did ranked choice voting work in New York City? We took a look.
  • Errol Louis, interviewed Eric Adams for his inaugural column in New York Magazine’s Intelligencer — predicting that if Adams wins he will be misunderstood at first but, eventually, “people will respect him.”
  • History lesson: New York Magazine published a look-back on the 1992 City Hall riot that shaped how our mayors have treated the New York Police Department for decades.

What are your election questions?

If you have any questions about the election process, the candidates or any other information when it comes to voting in New York, let us know by sending a note to civicnewsroom@thecity.nyc.

You can sign up to get Civic Newsroom updates to your email inbox here.

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