Student Voting Guide | New York
This student voting guide explains the laws for the state of New York. If you wish to vote from your school address, check the student voting guide for the state where you attend school. If you want to cast an absentee ballot in your home state, check the student voting guide for that state.
The Brennan Center is committed to giving students as much information as possible to help you exercise your constitutional right to vote. More than ever in recent history, changes to voting laws are being implemented in ways that can affect your ability to make your vote count. In addition to the content you will find in this Student Voting Guide, a report that we issued last year documents a number of these changes and we continue to track passed and pending voting law changes here. While we are working to give you up-to-date information, we urge you to be proactive! In order to ensure you have all the information you need before casting your vote, you should also check with your state and local election officials for information about additional requirements or regulations.
This voting guide was last updated in August 2012.
You can register to vote in New York either online, by mail, or in person, and your registration must be completed or postmarked 25 days before Election Day, which for the 2012 general election is October 12th, 2012.
New York now offers online registration through MyDMV for those with a DMV-issued driver's license or ID card. Voter registration forms can also be mailed or completed in person. The New York voter registration form is available online here. Your mailed application can be hand–written or filled out electronically using this English or Spanish pdf.
Mailed registration applications must be postmarked at least 25 days before the election and received no later than 20 days before the election. You may get a voter registration application by downloading the application above, by visiting your local county board of elections, by calling 1-800-FOR-VOTE, or by filling out the online voter registration request form on the New York State Board of Elections website. You can also register in person at your local board of elections, the DMV, or any state agency participating in the National Voter Registration Act, so long as you register no later than the 25th day before Election Day. First time voters are required to provide photo identification to successfully register. See the “Identification” section below for more details on this requirement.
If you are already registered to vote in New York and move to a new address in a different county, the voter registration form should be used as your change-of-address form. This update can also be made electronically through MyDMV. Any mailed change-of-address form must be postmarked at least 25 days before the election and received by your county board of elections at least 20 days before a special, primary, or general election. You can find more information about moving within New York in the Brennan Center’s Mover’s Guide. New York also requires registered voters take specific steps to change parties.
You can register to vote if you will be 18 by the next election, are a United States citizen, and are a resident of New York for at least 30 days preceding the election. However, if you moved to New York less than 30 days before the election, you may still cast a ballot for President and Vice-President. Also, if you have been convicted of a felony, it may impact your ability to vote. If you think you might be affected, you should contact local election officials.
At School. Students can establish residency in New York if they have a present intention to remain at their New York school address for the time being, and they intend to make it their principal home. Any other interpretation of the residency laws is unconstitutional.
At Home. Students who lived in New York before moving elsewhere to attend school, and who wish to establish or keep their New York voting residency (i.e., at their parents’ New York address), should have no problem doing so unless they have already registered to vote in another state. New York explicitly allows students to keep their voting residency even if they move out of the district to attend school, and the only way you will lose this residency is by establishing residency in a new state. While registering to vote in another state is not automatically considered an abandonment of your New York residency, some judges or officials might view it as such. If you have established residency in another state and are moving back to New York with the intent to reside here, you will have to follow the normal registration procedures to re-register in New York.
Effect on Driver’s Licenses. Voting in New York may be considered a declaration of residency, potentially making you subject to other laws that govern state residents. For instance, registering to vote in New York may be considered evidence of your residency for purposes of the motor vehicle laws. New York residents have 30 days to register their vehicles and apply for a New York driver’s license.
Challenges to Residency: Students have the right to cast a ballot as a resident of New York regardless of whether you pay in-state or out-of-state tuition. Any challenge made solely on the basis of your student or tuition status is invalid.
Your registration can be initially denied by the county board of elections if it finds that you are, for any reason, not entitled to registration. You will receive notice at least ten days before the next election, and you can then challenge that denial in court. Even if you effectively register, your registration can also be rejected by the county board of elections under the same process at any time up to ten days before the next election.
Your eligibility to vote can also be challenged by other voters, watchers, or inspectors. If you register in person, a registration challenge can occur at that time. If a majority of the officials conducting registration think you are qualified, you will be registered. Your eligibility can also be challenged any time after you are registered. The Board of Elections will notify you of the challenge and investigate your eligibility. If they cannot make a decision before election day, you will be put on a list to be challenged at the polls. You can appeal the outcome of a challenge in court.
On Election Day, your eligibility to vote can be challenged by poll workers, partisan watchers, or other voters. In that case, you will have to answer a few questions about your residency under oath, and you might have to swear an oath saying that you are eligible to vote. However, unless you refuse to take an oath, you should be able to vote a regular ballot.
Only first-time New York voters who register by mail and whose identifying number (driver's license or the last four digits of their Social Security number) was not verified by the state will need to provide an ID before voting at the polls or enclose a copy with their absentee ballot. For such votes, accepted ID includes any current and valid photo ID—including student ID—or a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or other government document that shows the voter’s name and address.
An absentee voting ballot is available online here.
Any voter may submit an absentee ballot if she or he is absent from her or his county or city of registration, unable to appear at a voting place because of illness or disability (or because the voter is the primary care taker of a person with an illness or disability), an inmate or patient of a veteran’s administration hospital, or detained in jail or prison. Students who are absent from the county where they are registered are specifically granted the right to vote absentee under New York State law. If you mail in your application for an absentee ballot, it must be postmarked at least seven days before the election. Your actual ballot must be postmarked by the day before the election and received by your county board within seven days after the election. Neither your ballot nor your application needs to be witnessed; however, voters who require assistance to sign their own applications must have a witness to the application.
Last Updated in August 2012
 N.Y. Elec. Law §§ 5-210, -211, -212 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 5-210 (McKinney 2011).
 If you are already registered to vote in New York and want to change parties, you must do so at least 25 days before the coming general election. However, the change in your party will not go into effect until one week after the next general election. In other words, you cannot change your party and vote in the new party in the same election. For Brennan Center advocacy efforts on this issue, click here.
 N.Y. Elec. Law §§ 5-102, -106 (McKinney 2011).
 Williams v. Salerno, 792 F.2d 323, 327 (2d Cir. 1986); see also N.Y. Elec. Law § 1-104(22) (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 5-104(1) (McKinney 2011).
 See N.Y. Veh. & Traf. Law § 250(5) (McKinney 2011).
 See N.Y. Elec. Law §5-210(11); see also N.Y. Elec. Law § 5-204(3)(e) (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law §§ 16-110 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 5-210(14) (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law §§ 5-218(1), -220 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 5-218 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 5-220 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 5-220(2) (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 16-108 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-502 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-504 (McKinney 2011).
 See N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-303 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-303 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-400 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-400(1)(a) (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-412 (McKinney 2011).
 N.Y. Elec. Law § 8-400(5) (McKinney 2011).