By now, every registered voter should have received a postcard from the Westchester County Board of Elections indicating the address of their polling locations for early voting and Election Day voting. In any other year, this confirmation would be as routine as getting a cable bill in the mail. In 2020, thanks to the coronavirus, of course, nothing is quite the same, and the same holds true for casting a ballot. 

Election reforms recently enacted in New York state gave us early voting and other welcome changes designed to broaden access to the polls. With safety concerns top of mind, even something as simple as showing up at a designated early polling place presents a knot of personal calculations. Will there be less people and shorter lines towards the start of the early voting period, or closer to the end? Rather than rely on the postal service to deliver your mail-in ballot, is it preferable to use a drop-off box at a polling location? If there’s no early voting location nearby, which should one choose?

Here are some points to keep in mind to help you develop your individual voting plan:

 

Deadlines

Today, Oct. 9, is the last day to postmark a voter registration form or to register in person at the county Board of Elections office in White Plains. The deadline for filing a change of address within Westchester County is Oct. 14. That seems pretty straightforward. However, some of the posted deadlines from the Board of Elections aren’t quite what they seem. The last day to postmark an application for an absentee ballot is Oct. 27. But good luck to you if you wait that long. The League of Women Voters earlier this week published a timeline of key voting deadlines with the following caveat: “Please be aware that despite the above deadlines the post office has advised that they cannot guarantee timely delivery of ballots applied for less than 15 days before an election.” So, in light of the postal service’s own warning, you would be smart to postmark that application no later than Oct. 19. While we’re on the topic of absentee ballots, don’t forget that even if you applied for an absentee ballot previous, you must re-apply for the general election. If you don’t re-apply, you will not receive an absentee ballot for the general election. 

Early voting

We’re still a couple of weeks away from the start of the early voting period Saturday, Oct. 24, which continues through Sunday, Nov. 1. The Board of Elections has announced 17 early voting locations scattered around the county. You can find details about locations and hours of early polling places at citizenparticipation.westchestergov.com.

Some things to note:

  • Some towns have one (the Pound Ridge location is the Town House, 179 Westchester Ave.), while others like Bedford do not. 
  • Hours for these locations vary by date and are not the same as Election Day polling place hours. 
  • Registered Westchester voters can go to any of the 17 early voting locations in the county. (Again, this is different from Election Day, when voters must go to their assigned polling place.)

Ballot drop-off

There is good news for those looking for a streamlined way to cast their ballots. The Board of Elections commissioners last month approved a plan to allow registered voters to drop off a completed absentee ballot at all early voting locations or at their assigned Election Day polling place without needing to wait in line. Voters choosing this option will hand their absentee ballot over to an election inspector who will deposit it in a secure box.

The goal, of course, is to minimize delays and contact with other voters and election workers. The elections board said each early voting location offering drop-off ballot boxes will “post signage indicating so at the main entrance that will also note not to wait on any in-person voting line. Inside the main entrance, the specific counter or table where ballots can be dropped off will be indicated by another clearly marked sign.” 

Poll worker sign up

Even if your own voting plan is set, you can help Election Day voting go smoothly by signing up to volunteer at the polls. If you are interested in being a poll worker, contact the following county Board of Elections representatives: Ericka Sterling, Democrat, by phone at 995-8568 or by email at ems2@westchestergov.com; Jonathan Cannella, Republican, by phone at 995-8563 or by email at jqce@westchestergov.com.

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