ICYMI: Let nothing stand in the way of your right to vote

NEW YORK, NY (11/02/2022) (readMedia)-- Today, Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause/NY, wrote in the Times Union a know your rights guide for voters as they vote early and on election day. Read here and below.

Commentary: Let nothing stand in the way of your right to vote

Susan Lerner

Nov. 2, 2022

According to a recent New York Times/Siena Poll, over 70 percent of registered voters think our democracy is under attack. They're absolutely right when every day we read new stories about candidates refusing to accept election results if they don't win, or extremist groups questioning the legitimacy of our extremely secure elections. In the same poll, more than one-third of independent voters (and even a small number of Democrats) said they were open to supporting candidates who reject the legitimacy of the 2020 election.

This is alarming. And these very same election deniers live in our very own backyard. Recently, Common Cause/NY has heard from New Yorkers all over the state about teams of people who have presented to local legislatures about so-called election fraud in 2020. These groups are actively sowing distrust and attempting to manufacture chaos, when the fact is that here in New York we have a highly regulated and secure system that protects the voter above all else.

So as you head to the polls for early voting this week or on Election Day next Tuesday, here's what you need to know:

Whatever you do, do not leave your poll site without casting your ballot, whether that means placing it into a scanner or voting by affidavit ballot (also known as a provisional ballot). If a poll worker or watcher – or just a random person – is challenging your right to vote, remain calm. New York's laws are pro-voter: Even if you are challenged, it is more than likely that you will still be able to cast a ballot.

Why would someone challenge my eligibility to begin with, you might ask? Perhaps you're in the wrong election district, or you're not properly registered, or maybe when you go to sign into the poll book your signature doesn't exactly match the one they have for you on record. It's OK. Take a deep breath. When in doubt, call 1-866-OURVOTE, and our free hotline of legal personnel can talk you through it. Common Cause/NY will also have nonpartisan "Election Protection" monitors all over the state – volunteers who have been trained in our laws – so feel free to ask for help if you see one nearby. They'll be wearing buttons that say "Election Protection."

And no matter who asks, you never need to show an ID in order to vote. If someone asks for your ID, no matter who it is, simply let them know that you are not required to show ID in New York.

Lastly, remember that our elections are safe and secure. The people who run our elections are not strangers. They are members of our communities – neighbors, friends, and family. Election administrators, board employees, and poll workers have to be residents of your county and are drawn from both major parties.

Every vote is cast on a paper ballot that can be checked and rechecked to ensure that all votes are counted accurately. Workers representing both major parties oversee ballot counting, a common practice nationwide to provide checks and balances in the election process.

If a particular race is especially close, state law requires election workers to do a full hand recount of every ballot cast in the race. The law sets out procedures to ensure a clear chain of custody – constant oversight for every ballot and voting machine, and records that document everyone who handles each. And again, every step of the canvassing process is supervised by both Republicans and Democrats.

For an extra level of protection, candidate representatives are also able to observe how absentee and affidavit ballots are verified to be counted, as well as the count itself. Citizens who have watched ballot canvassing attest to how careful and detailed it is. No one is "stealing" an election.

Our elections are secure and highly regulated. Instances of voter misconduct are isolated, exceedingly rare, and have had no impact on the election results. Tune out the noise and cast your ballot. Democracy depends on it.

Susan Lerner is the executive director of Common Cause/NY.