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How to Make Sure Your Vote Counts This Election Day

Everything you need to know about where, when, and how to vote in November’s elections.

Elections commissioners are encouraging early voting this year to avoid long lines at the polls on November 3.
Stephen Velasco
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This article was updated on Saturday, October 31 to reflect extensions of early-voting hours in several Hudson Valley counties.

Voting in New York will be different this year. Two sets of state voting laws have been passed since the last major election in 2018, changing when and how New Yorkers can cast their ballots.

The most significant of these changes will debut on what is expected to be a unique and tense election day—one where the winners will most likely remain unknown for more than a week after the polls close, due to the expected high number of absentee ballots.

The River talked to election officials from eight counties in the Hudson Valley and Catskills about the new system, possible delays from the postal service, and what they anticipated on election day. Below is the result—your very own guide to voting in 2020.

There Are Three Different Ways to Vote This Year

Before 2019, most people in New York could only vote the traditional way: Standing in long lines, trying to suss out who was voting for a third-party candidate.

But this year, anyone can vote with an absentee ballot. Legislation signed into law August 20 allows New Yorkers to request absentee ballots if “there is a risk of contracting or spreading a disease-causing illness to the voter or to other members of the public.” The law was created in part so New Yorkers could avoid crowding polling sites during the pandemic.

Early voting is also available in New York this year after debuting during the 2019 election. Each county will hold voting hours at a limited set of polling sites for nine days ending the Sunday before Election Day. Each county’s hours are listed below.

Then there’s the traditional Election Day vote. All polling places in the Hudson Valley and Catskills are open on November 3 from 6am until 9pm.

Separately from other federal, state and local races, village elections were also affected by the pandemic. Most village governments in New York State hold their elections for mayor, board members, and other positions in March, but this year, they were delayed twice by executive orders from Governor Andrew Cuomo, before finally being held on Tuesday, September 15.

The Last Day to Request an Absentee Ballot Is Too Late

The last day to request an absentee ballot for the November 3 election is October 27, but if you wait that long to mail in a request, your vote may not be counted.

Letters were sent to the state governments in July with a warning by Thomas J. Marshall, the general counsel for the Postal Service, saying most of the states’ deadlines for requesting absentee ballots weren’t in line with how long it took the service to deliver mail, according to Reuters.

The mail has been taking longer as of late. Overtime for postal workers has been canceled and letter-sorting machines have been taken offline, leading Democrats to accuse Louis DeJoy—appointed US Postmaster General by President Trump in May—of slowing the mail to disrupt the election. Trump has railed for months against mail-in voting as an invitation for mass election fraud, and his supporters are expected to avoid mail-in voting when compared to Biden supporters. 

During a confrontational hearing on August 21, DeJoy assured Congress that all ballots would be delivered “securely and on time” and 95 percent of election mail will be delivered in three days, according to Reuters.

However, all eight county elections commissioners interviewed said voters should follow Marshall’s original 15-day timetable and mail in requests for ballots more than a week before the official New York deadline—or earlier. The deadline does not allow enough time for requests to get to the Board of Election, be processed and filled by election workers, be mailed to the voter, and then mailed back to the BOE, the elections commissioners said.

Dutchess County elections commissioner Beth Soto said that despite the October 27 deadline, “the Post Office has advised us they cannot guarantee timely delivery of ballots applied for less than 15 days before the election”—which would be October 19. She encouraged Dutchess County voters to submit their ballot requests before October 12. That’s a reasonable guideline for all voters to follow, regardless of which county they reside in.

Voters can request absentee ballots now, and other elections commissioners suggested voters mail in ballot applications as soon as possible.

“I think everyone acknowledges that it seems like there’s an extra two- or three-days’ lag time at the Post Office,” said Delaware County elections commissioner Judy Garrison. “People are advised to act timely. They have plenty of time to act ahead.”

Ballots are certified by the state September 9, then by county boards of elections (BOEs) September 10, after which the BOEs begin the laborious process of producing the ballots and mailing them out to absentee voters.

We were able to get dates for when absentee ballots would begin to be mailed to voters in many Hudson Valley and Catskill counties; they are listed under their respective counties below.

New Yorkers can also request a ballot through an online portal the state launched September 1, which can be found here. The portal saves time by eliminating the request’s journey through the mail, though the ballot itself still needs to be mailed to the voter, then back to their county BOE.

Voters can also bypass the mail and save time step by emailing, calling, or faxing ballot requests through their county BOEs. Some BOEs have a preferred method, which is listed below.

Another state law allows absentee ballots to be postmarked as late as election day. These ballots can be received by BOEs as late as November 10. Governor Cuomo announced on September 8 that voters can now drop off absentee ballots at Board of Elections offices anytime, including during early voting.

Early Voting Will Help Flatten the Curve

To use the nomenclature of the day, voting early will help flatten the curve, spreading out when votes are cast. Ulster County elections commissioner Ashley Dittus said early voters would avoid lines—more than just a convenience in the time of COVID-19. 

Early voting differs from Election Day voting. A limited number of polling places will be open for more than a week ending November 1, the Sunday before Election Day, though each county has some flexibility as to their specific hours. In Ulster County—where early voting made up seven percent of all votes in 2019, the second-highest proportion in the state—there will be five early polling sites, while Westchester County will have 17. Half of counties in the region will have only a single early polling site.

Any registered voter can visit any early-voting site in their county, a fact often misunderstood during the method’s launch last year, according to Dittus. Unlike absentee voting, there is no need to request anything: residents can just show up and vote.

Vote Twice?

Voters unsure if their absentee ballot will arrive on time were encouraged by several of the elections commissioners to also vote in person.

The suggestion at least ostensibly mirrors a suggestion President Trump made to his supporters to vote both by absentee ballot and in person to help ensure their vote is received. The comments drew outrage from Trump detractors, who suggested Trump was encouraging his supporters to commit election fraud.  

The picture is more complex, and some elections commissioners in the region endorsed double voting to ensure everyone got to vote.

In New York, lists of voters who’ve mailed in their ballots are cross-checked with lists of voters who cast their ballots on election day, and any duplicates are tossed, eliminating any possibility a resident would get two votes, according to the elections commissioners.

Most counties now have tracking systems so voters can see when their ballot requests are processed and when their completed ballots are received back at their BOE.

Ulster County elections commissioner Dittus said voters anxious about receiving their ballot in the mail in time can always check the tracker and vote early or on Election Day if the ballot isn’t looking prompt. Someone who has already mailed their ballot can still vote in person if they are anxious about the ballot getting to their BOE by November 10.

Columbia County elections commissioner Ken Dow said the system eliminates any double votes.

“We cross-check every absentee ballot against the voting records from election day and early voting, and if anybody voted in person who was also sent in an absentee ballot, that ballot gets pulled out so they don’t get counted twice,” he said. “So, if anyone is unsure, they can send in an absentee application, and…if they feel comfortable voting in person when the time comes, it doesn’t stop them.”

Absentee Applications Are Already Rolling In

County BOEs in the Hudson Valley and Catskills reported a deluge of applications soon after Governor Cuomo signed the bill allowing absentee voting by anyone fearful of contracting COVID-19.

The law took effect upon its signing August 20, and Ulster County’s BOE reported receiving 4,500 requests by September 2. Rockland County’s BOE received 10,000 requests by September 3, while Sullivan County, with just 53,000 registered voters, received 3,000 requests in this time. Columbia County elections commissioner Dow said his BOE “could easily get 20,000 absentee applications.”

When Will We Know the Results?

The three methods of voting all run on different schedules, and New York’s results will not come in all at once.

Though early voting ends November 1, results can not be released until after the polls close on election day, November 3. Results of early voting are expected to be compiled by then and should be posted just after 9pm.

Absentee ballots have until the end of November 10 to get their respective BOEs. Some election commissioners said they were only going to begin counting them on November 11.

Putnam County elections commissioner Andrea Basli said her office may post absentee votes on a rolling basis after Election Day, though the results would be unofficial until the final absentee ballots are processed after November 10. This brings us to…

Democrats’ Nightmare Scenario

Trump has been lambasting mail-in voting for months, claiming fraud will happen on a massive scale and absentee ballots will swindle him out of the election.

Absentee ballots could very well flip many of November’s elections, but not because of fraud, but rather because of President Trump claiming there might be fraud. He has sown so much distrust about mail-in voting that his supporters are expected to disproportionately avoid the system and vote in person on Election Day.

Of those planning to vote in person, 57 percent plan to vote for Donald Trump, while 37 percent plan to vote for Joe Biden, according to a national Emerson poll. Of those planning to vote by mail, 67 percent plan to vote for Biden and only 28 percent vote for Trump. 

There is also evidence of this locally. Ulster County elections commissioner Dittus said Democrats disproportionately requested absentee ballots during this summer’s primaries and “it’s trending that way now.”

“[Absentee ballots] could be even more of consequence” in November’s elections because so many more people are using them, Dittus said.  “It could change an entire Assembly or Senate race.”

Since early votes and Election Day votes are expected to be posted overnight November 3, New Yorkers could wake up to an almost completely red electoral map. It is only over the subsequent 10-plus days that absentee ballot results will be posted, turning many of the red districts blue.

Just like Trump said all along.

More Polls Workers Needed

Some BOEs said they were having more trouble finding elections inspectors than in prior years because of the pandemic and Early Voting. Ulster County is temporarily hiring over 600 elections inspectors to cover the extended early voting hours.

Several elections commissioners said most inspectors were retirees, many of whom did not sign on this year because of pandemic fears, draining the normal employee pool. Commissioners specifically asked for younger people to apply, in case a second COVID-19 wave hits the state and causes at-risk inspectors to call out. Members of the minority party in their county are also encouraged to apply, as an equal number of registered Republicans and Democrats are needed in each county, sometimes a challenging feat. In Rockland County, where Democrats outnumber Republicans 2-to-1, elections commissioner Kristen Zebrowski Stavisky said they are “always struggling to get Republican inspectors.”

Elections inspectors will be trained and are paid anywhere from $15 per hour to a flat $350 for election day, depending on the county. Interested parties must be registered to vote, but do not need to be registered with a political party, though they must choose to be a Democrat or a Republican for the purposes of working the polls.

Westchester County

Early Voting Hours 

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 12pm–5pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 12pm–5pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 8am–4pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 12pm–8pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 8am–4pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 12pm–8pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 8am–4pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 12pm–6pm (Except at Mt. Kisco Memorial Complex at Leonard Park, which will be open 11am-4pm due to a Halloween event)
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 12pm–6pm

Early Voting Sites

  • Eastchester Public Library, 11 Oakridge Place, Eastchester
  • Dobbs Ferry Village Hall, 112 Main Street, Dobbs Ferry
  • Greenburgh Town Hall, 177 Hillside Avenue, White Plains
  • Veterans Memorial Building, 210 Halstead Avenue, Harrison
  • Pound Ridge Town House, 179 Westchester Avenue, Pound Ridge
  • Mamaroneck Town Center, 740 West Boston Post Road, Mamaroneck
  • Mt. Kisco Memorial Complex at Leonard Park, 1 Wallace Drive, Mt. Kisco
  • Mt. Pleasant Community Center, 125 Lozza Drive, Valhalla
  • Mt. Vernon City Hall, 1 Roosevelt Square, Mount Vernon
  • New Rochelle City Hall Annex, 90 Beaufort Place, New Rochelle
  • Joseph G. Caputo Community Center, 95 Broadway, Ossining
  • Peekskill Nutrition Center–Neighborhood Center, 4 Nelson Avenue, Peekskill
  • Somers Town House, 335 Route 202, Somers
  • Westchester County Board of Elections, 25 Quarropas Street, White Plains
  • Grinton I. Will Library, 1500 Central Park Avenue, Yonkers
  • Riverfront Library, One Larkin Center, Yonkers
  • Yorktown Cultural Center, 1974 Commerce Street, Yorktown Heights

Election Day Polling Sites

As of September 8, Westchester County was still finalizing its list of polling places. They will be posted here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

Unknown.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

Yes—especially those who speak both English and Spanish. Contact Ericka Sterling at (914) 995-8568 or ems2@westchestergov.com or Jonathan Cannella at (914) 995-8563 or jqce@westchestergov.com.

Rockland County

Early Voting Hours 

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 9am–2pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 9am–5pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 12pm–8pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 9am–5pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 12pm–8pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 9am–5pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 9am–4:30pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 9am–4:30pm

Early Voting Sites 

  • Clarkstown Town Hall, 10 Maple Avenue, New City
  • Haverstraw Town Hall, 1 Rosman Road, Garnerville
  • Orangetown Town Hall, 26 West Orangeburg Road, Orangeburg
  • Ramapo Town Hall, 237 Route 59, Suffern

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

End of September/beginning of October.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

Yes—especially registered Republicans and younger people. Contact Rockland County BOE at (845) 678-5172 or voterinfo@co.rockland.ny.us.

Putnam County

Early Voting Hours

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 9am–2pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 9am–5pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 9am–8pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 9am–5pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 9am–8pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 9am–5pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 9am–5pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 9am–2pm

Early Voting Site

Putnam County Board of Elections, 25 Old Route 6, Carmel

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

Unknown.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

Yes. If interested fill out the online form, or email BOETraining@putnamcountyny.gov.

Dutchess County

Early Voting Hours

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 12pm–5pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 12pm–5pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 9am–5pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 12pm–8pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 9am–5pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 12pm–8pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 9am–5pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 9am–4pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 12pm–5pm

Early Voting Sites 

  • Rhinebeck Town Hall, 80 East Market Street, Rhinebeck
  • Millbrook Fire House, 20 Front Street, Millbrook
  • Dutchess County BOE, 47 Cannon Street, Poughkeepsie
  • Boardman Road Library, 141 Boardman Road, Poughkeepsie
  • Fishkill Town Hall, 807 Route 52, Fishkill

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

September 21.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

No.

Orange County

Early Voting Hours 

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 12pm–5pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 10am–3pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 12pm–8pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 7am–3pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 12pm–8pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 7am–3pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 12pm–8pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 10am–3pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 10am–3pm

Early Voting Sites 

  • City of Newburgh Activity Center, 401 Washington Street, Newburgh
  • Cornwall Ambulance Building, 1 Clinton Street, Cornwall
  • Warwick Town Hall, 132 Kings Highway, Warwick
  • Middletown Senior Center, 62-70 West Main Street, Middletown
  • Village of Montgomery Senior Center, 36 Bridge Street, Montgomery
  • Delaware Engine Company, 22 Hammond Street, Port Jervis
  • Monroe Town Hall, 1465 Orange Turnpike, Monroe

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

Unknown.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

Yes, badly—especially residents who speak English and Spanish. Democrat contact: (845) 360-6515 or elections@orangecountygov.com. Republican contact: (845) 360-6516 or elections@orangecountygov.com.

Ulster County

Early Voting Hours

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 10am–3pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 10am–3pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 9am–5pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 12pm–8pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 9am–5pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 12pm–8pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 9am–5pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 9am–5pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 9am–3:30pm

Early Voting Sites

  • Woodstock Community Center, 56 Rock City Road, Woodstock
  • Midtown Neighborhood Center, 467 Broadway, Kingston
  • New Paltz Community Center, 3 Veterans Drive, New Paltz
  • Highland American Legion, 84 Grand Street, Highland
  • Ellenville Public Library Community Room, 40 Center Street, Ellenville

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal or email absentees@co.ulster.ny.us.

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

September 18.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

Alternates are still needed. Apply by clicking here.

Sullivan County

Early Voting Hours 

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 9am–2pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 9am–5pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 12pm–8pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 9am–5pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 12pm–8pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 9am–5pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 9am–2pm

Early Voting Site 

Sullivan County Government Center, 100 North Street, Monticello

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here. Check back before Election Day, as sites are subject to change.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal or email scboe@co.sullivan.ny.us.

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

Unknown.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

No.

Columbia County

Early Voting Hours 

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 9am–2pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 12pm–8pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 9am–5pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 12pm–8pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 9am–5pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 9am–5pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 9am–2pm

Early Voting Site 

Columbia County Government Building, 401 State Street, Hudson

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal or email elections@columbiacountyny.com.

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

“Very soon after” September 18, according to county elections commissioner Ken Dow.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

Yes. Call (518) 828-3115 if interested.

Greene County

Early Voting Hours 

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 9am–2pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 12pm–8pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 9am–5pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 12pm–8pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 9am–5pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 9am–5pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 9am–2pm

Early Voting Site 

Greene County Office Building, 411 Main Street, Catskill

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

Unknown.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

Perhaps. Call (518) 719-3550 if interested.

Delaware County

Early Voting Hours 

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 9am–2pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 8:30am–4:30pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 8:30am–8pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 8:30am–8pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 8:30pm–4:30pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 8:30pm–4:30pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 9am–2pm

Early Voting Site 

Delaware County Board of Elections Office, 3 Gallant Avenue, Delhi

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

Last week in September.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

No.

Schoharie County

Early Voting Hours 

  • Saturday, Oct. 24, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Oct. 25, 9am–2pm
  • Monday, Oct. 26, 9am–8pm
  • Tuesday, Oct. 27, 9am–5pm
  • Wednesday, Oct. 28, 9am–8pm
  • Thursday, Oct. 29, 9pm–5pm
  • Friday, Oct. 30, 9pm–5pm
  • Saturday, Oct. 31, 9am–2pm
  • Sunday, Nov. 1, 9am–2pm

Early Voting Site 

Schoharie County BOE, 284 Main Street, Schoharie

Election Day Polling Sites

Can be found here.

Best Method for Sending Absentee Ballot Requests

State Absentee Ballot Application Portal

Date Absentee Ballots Begin Mailing

First week in October.

Election Inspectors Still Needed?

No.