Here’s What to Do if You’re Turned Away on Election Day

NEW YORK — You’ve gotten there in time, you have the right polling place, and yet you are turned away at the polls on Election Day.

What happens now?

There are any number of reasons why you may be told you can’t vote on Election Day. Maybe you’ve moved recently and haven’t updated your registration. Maybe you haven’t voted in a while and you’ve been marked as inactive. 

This does not mean you should walk out of the precinct and not vote. 

Here is what you should do. 

DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT POLLING PLACE?

  • Make sure you have the right polling place. You can look up your polling place, which should be based on your current address, by going to your borough elections office. We have links on our Decision 2020 Voting Guide.
  • Know that if you haven’t updated your address with the local elections office, you may be challenged at the polls. You can update your address if you moved within the city, and a poll worker can help either direct you to the right polling place or update your address. 
  • If you recently moved into the city, you need to call the Board of Elections for help in handling your registration. 
  • You may be asked to fill out an affidavit ballot, which will be counted once they verify your updated information.
  • This information is taken from the New York State Board of Elections.

DO YOU HAVE THE RIGHT VOTER IDENTIFICATION IF YOU’RE A FIRST-TIME VOTER?

If you did not provide ID when you registered to vote the first time, you will have to vote by affidavit ballot. According to the BOE, the accepted forms of identification are:

  • Driver’s license number
  • Non-driver’s ID number
  • Last four digits of your social security number
  • Current or valid photo ID
  • Current utility bill
  • Bank statement
  • Government check or paycheck
  • Government document that shows name and address

HAVE YOU BEEN TOLD YOUR REGISTRATION IS INACTIVE?

There is always a chance your voter registration has been marked inactive. This largely happens because you have not voted in a number of years, and you have also not had any communication with your local elections office. 

If you are marked down as “inactive,” you need to re-register to vote. If there is any further issue, you should contact your local elections office. Although you won’t be able to have a completed voter registration on Election Day (that deadline was October 9), you will be allowed to submit an affidavit ballot.

RECENTLY REGISTERED BUT NOT IN THE SYSTEM?

If for any reason you are not in the system, take the following steps:

  • Ask poll workers to check any surrounding systems for your name
  • Ask to sign an affidavit swearing your eligibility
  • Call or visit your local elections office if you are not being helped by poll workers
  • Ask for an affidavit ballot and follow up afterwards to make sure it’s counted. You may have to provide additional information.

STILL BEING TURNED AWAY FROM THE POLLS?

Remember to be calm and clear in your intentions. Don’t get aggressive or overly frustrated. Make it clear you are there to exercise your right to vote. Then call local election officials to report any ill treatment by poll workers and to get help voting.

If you are still not getting satisfaction, you can call the following numbers:

  • New York Election Hotline:  1-800-771-7755
  • The U.S. Dept. of Justice Voting Rights Hotline: 1-800-253-3931

If you need further help, a coalition of civil rights groups have an election protection hotline to report issues. The hotline is supported by the ACLU, the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, the League of Women Voters, Common Cause, and the Lawyer’s Committee for Civil Rights.

  • 1-866-OUR-VOTE (866-687-8683)
  • 1-888-VE-Y-VOTA (en Español)
  • 1-888-API-VOTE (Asian multilingual assistance)
  • 1-844-418-1682 (Arabic)

The New York Civil Liberties Union (NYCLU) also has a Voting Team hotline (212-607-3300).

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