It's almost election day. Photo: visuals on Unsplash

As New Yorkers with the power to influence local government, this is a reminder to vote. To help you navigate this year’s election, below are a few quick tips.

For those of us in New York City, there are several election cycles with primaries generally taking place in June and general elections in November:

  • Federal – President, U.S. Senate and U.S. House
    • Presidential every four years – the next one is 2024.
    • Members of Congress are elected every two years during midterms and presidential elections. The next one is also in 2024.
  • State Legislature
    • Governor, state comptroller and attorney general are every four years. The next one is in 2026.
    • State Senate and State Assembly are every two years. The next one is in 2024.
  • New York City Mayor, city council, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, district attorney and judges. These are generally every four years; however, due to redistricting Councilmembers, DAs and judges are on the ballot this season (i.e. this coming Nov. 7). After November, the next NYC elections will take place in 2025.

1) Find your poll site 

Visit Find My Poll Site. This site is a great resource as it gives voters the locations for both early voting and Election Day voting, in case you moved, are newly registered and it’s your first time voting –– like me in 2018 –– or need confirmation on where your polling site is.

The creator of this cheat sheet, Epicenter’s director of communications and partnerships, Carolina Valencia

And I just learned that my early voting site is much closer to home. I may do it, though I personally love the experience of voting on Election Day. The main thing is to make a plan that works for you, figure out when is the best day and time to go vote so you can fit it in your schedule. 

The Find My Poll Site also outlines your district information, for example, this is mine:

2) View your sample ballot

 The last thing you want (and more so for the primaries) is to not know who’s on the ballot, what these candidates stand for, and if there are any proposals you will need to vote on.

This is my sample ballot:

In certain districts, you may find that your council member, for example, is running on multiple lines (this is part of New York’s “fusion” voting system). If you’re planning to vote for that candidate, select only one party, do not fill them all in.

Important note: If you are enrolled in a political party, you are not obligated to vote for your party’s candidate in the general election.You may vote for any candidate from any party. That said, to participate in future primaries, you must be a registered member of a specific party.

Check out this FAQ for more information.

Speaking of proposals, New York voters will see two questions. Make sure you research what these mean as the ballot seldom provides sufficient context. Ask other voters, feel free to call the offices of your elected officials to find out where they stand, check out what kind of coverage the proposals have generated (e.g. Gothamist and NY1) across different publications so you’re not just relying on one source. Also, although proposal #1 does not impact NYC, if you know people in these towns, get their opinion so you can better assess and decide how to vote.

Proposal Number One, an Amendment: Removal of Small City School Districts From Special Constitutional Debt Limitation The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 4 of the Constitution removes the special constitutional debt limitation now placed on small city school districts, so they will be treated the same as all other school districts.  Shall the proposed amendment be approved? Yes or No

Proposal Number Two, an Amendment: Extending Sewage Project Debt Exclusion From Debt Limit The proposed amendment to Article 8, section 5 of the Constitution extends for ten years the authority of counties, cities, towns, and villages to remove from their constitutional debt limits debt for the construction of sewage facilities. Shall the proposed amendment be approved? Yes or No

3) Decide on a candidate

Some races are easier to decide than others, as certain candidates may have significantly more visibility whether through local news or social media, or you may have voted for them in the last election. 

If you’re not familiar with a candidate, don’t fret. Here are some things to consider that have been helpful for me:

  • Endorsements – Go to the candidate’s campaign site and review who has endorsed them. Reading their bio will not suffice as that’s just going to highlight what they want us to know vs. what we should know. Endorsements are helpful as they can come from other elected officials, political action committees (PACs) and organizations. Depending on where you side with these folks and their values, the endorsements will provide context on where the candidates stand on issues.
  • News – See what coverage they’ve generated, and what they have supported. If they are already in office, see what key legislation they’ve passed (this is specific to council members). Is there anything controversial? Think your vote doesn’t matter in such a “blue” city? We explain why it does, here. Need a refresher on what primary elections mean? We got you

Other quick tips

If you have yet to register to vote, the last day is Saturday, Oct. 28. Register online via the DMV or go to one of the Board of Elections (BOE) offices. More info here:

Another good resource is It links to this, where you can check if you’re registered. I’m an active voter but I always like to double check.

  • If you have moved a few times, have your zip codes handy. Just because you updated your mailing address does not mean that your voting address reflects your current residence.

And finally, see more key dates here.

Get your vote out and wear that “I Voted” sticker proudly.

Happy Voting!

Carolina Valencia is longtime media and digital executive who has worked at The New York Times, Univision and The Recount. A native of Guayaquil, Ecuador who grew up in Queens, Carolina also worked for...

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