Learn About Elections

Voters have many opportunities to learn about candidates and their platforms before Election Day. Candidates frequently hold public events and local media often run extensive coverage of candidates. Many organizations host election forums and some evaluate candidates based on their voting records.

Get Involved

There are many constitutionally-protected ways to advocate for candidates and issues you believe in before an election, including:
  • Posting political signs. This can be an effective way to make sure your voice is heard on important questions facing your community, and the First Amendment protects your right to do so. Local governments may place certain limits on posted signs generally, but they cannot specifically prevent community members from posting political signs where other signs are permitted. If you believe that your municipality’s local ordinance is unconstitutional, please contact your local NYCLU chapter.
  • Attending or organizing a rally. This can ensure that candidates know what is important to your community. Before taking over the town square (or, in New York City, Times Square), check out restrictions on rallying and protesting, the process for obtaining permits, and the rights of participants and organizers. In New York City, read the NYCLU’s Guide to Demonstrating in New York City.

Know Your Rights

All U.S. citizens who are at least 18 years old on Election Day and have resided in the city or county for at least 30 days are eligible to vote, so long as they have not been declared mentally incompetent and are not currently incarcerated for a felony conviction, or on parole for one. If this describes you, you are entitled to vote! Make sure you know your rights before Election Day. Students can register to vote either at school or home, whatever address they consider their primary legal residence. For more information, visit the Brennan Center’s Student Voting Guide for New York. People who are homeless can register to vote by identifying a place of residence (a street corner, a park, a shelter or any other place where you usually stay) and a mailing address (a local advocacy organization, shelter, outreach center or anyone willing to accept mail for you). For more information, visit the League of Women Voters New York State Voting Guide for Homeless Individuals. People with disabilities can vote at their local polling place with the assistance of a person of their choice (other than an employer, an agent of an employer, or an officer or agent of a labor union). If a voter requesting assistance does not select a specific person, they will be assisted by two election inspectors, each from a different party. Polling places in New York are required to be accessible unless they are granted an exemption. If a polling place is not accessible, contact the local board of elections and ask for an accommodation or an absentee ballot application. If voting in person is not feasible, voters with disabilities have the right to vote by absentee ballot, and to automatically receive an absentee ballot for subsequent elections. For more information please visit: To learn about disability rights trainings for local boards of elections or poll workers, please let us know. People with criminal convictions can vote. Individuals who were convicted of a misdemeanor or a violation are entitled to vote, even if they are still incarcerated (incarcerated individuals must vote by absentee ballot). People who have felony convictions but are not currently incarcerated or on parole are also entitled to vote, even if they are on probation. For more information, visit NYCLU’s page on voting after a conviction, the League of Women Voter’s New York State Voting Guide for Individuals with Criminal Convictions or Those Detained in Jail or Prison, or the Brennan Center’s Information Page on Voting Rights Restoration in New York. People whose first language is not English can vote in their native language in certain counties. Some New York counties require polling sites to provide Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Bengali ballots. Contact your local board of elections prior to Election Day to learn what is available in your area. If language assistance is not required in your area, you have the right to bring an interpreter with you to the polls. The interpreter can be any person who is not an employer, an agent of an employer, or an officer or agent of a labor union. Survivors of intimate partner violence may contact their local board of elections to request an accommodation that allows them to get a special ballot and avoid their regular polling place. They can also have their voter registration record kept private by obtaining a court order in the county where they are registered. This means that the voter’s registration information will be maintained separately from other voter records, and will be unavailable for public inspection.

Volunteer

Before Election Day:

Help Others Register To Vote by volunteering with a local organization that organizes election registration drives. In New York City, the League of Women Voters NYC is coordinating efforts. To find out about drives around the state, or to get help setting up your own voter registration drive, please contact your local NYCLU chapter or your local League of Women Voters.

On Election Day:

Volunteer as a Poll Worker through your local board of elections. For more information about being a poll worker in your area, visit the New York City Board of Elections or the New York State Board of Elections Volunteer as an Election-Protection Poll Monitor through an organization that places volunteers outside of polling places to document voter intimidation or illegal conduct. Some organizations may require legal experience. Organizations currently seeking election-day volunteers include the Asian American Legal Defense and Education Fund, Common Cause NY, and the 866-Our-Vote Election Protection Project of the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights Under Law. Contact your local NYCLU chapter to learn more about efforts in your area. If your organization is currently seeking volunteers for registration drives or election-day monitoring, please let us know.

Stay informed

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