Election day is coming up, and voting in NY is no joke. With more ways to vote than ever – absentee ballots, early voting, and in-person voting – it can get a little confusing.

In this article, we’ll break down: how to easily find out who is on your ballot, where and how to vote early, and even what to say to folks who think your vote doesn’t count in NY (spoiler alert: it does). Want to support voters? Grab our limited edition VOTE stickers made in partnership with Sticky Locals and Welcome to Chinatown HERE.


First up, your vote counts. No lie. Even though NY is a highly liberal/blue/democratic state and most likely to swing Joe Biden, you’re not only voting for president, you’re voting for state, and local officials as well.

Beyond what the presidential election outcome means on a national scale, the additional candidates on the ballot are the leaders that have a DIRECT impact on your community – from State Assembly members passing legislation (like this one passed in July to protect New Yorkers from discrimination by real estate brokers and agents) to Supreme Court Justices* ruling on cases (re: Eric Garner shooting).

Your ballot could mean electing an official who decides whether or not justice is served. If you’ve ever joined a protest, donated to a fundraiser, reshared an Instagram post – you’ve made a difference before, and you will again, simply by voting. 


Before you vote, you’ll want to know who’s on your ballot and what they stand for.

This election, we will be voting for:

  • President
  • Congress
  • Supreme Court
  • Civil Court
  • State Senate
  • State Assembly

(Allot yourself an hour or so for this exercise)

Step 1: Make a copy of our Google Sheet (use our template HERE) to input your information. 

Step 2: Find your district by typing in your zipcode here.  Once you know what district you live in – you can start researching.

Step 3: Research the candidates using the 2020 General Election Voters Guide or Ballotopedia, where guides where candidates submit their own information. While these guides are helpful, there is no singular site that will have all the information on your candidates, you WILL have to do some of your own research.


CONGRESS consists of two houses, the Senate and the House of Representatives, with members chosen through direct election. Find your candidates HERE.

Depending on which party is in power, one serves as the majority leader and the other as the minority leader. The leaders serve as spokespersons for their party’s positions on issues. The majority leader schedules the daily legislative program and fashions the unanimous consent agreements that govern the time for debate.

Today, Mitch Mcconnell serves as the Majority leader and Nancy Pelosi as the minority leader. They’ve both been leading the discussions in the second Stimulus Package that still. hasn’t. passed.

Congress has the power to:

  • Make laws
  • Declare war
  • Raise and provide public money and oversee its proper expenditure
  • Impeach and try federal officers
  • Approve presidential appointments
  • Approve treaties negotiated by the executive branch
  • Oversight and investigations


There are 63 seats and every seat is up for election every 2 years. Research your candidates HERE.

  •  The upper chamber of the state legislature. 
  • They write and have a vote on legislation. 
  • They set state spending levels.
  • They determine when to raise or lower taxes 
  • Have the ability to uphold or override gubernatorial vetoes. 
  • Confirms the Governor’s appointments of judges and state officials. 


There are 150 seats and every seat is up for election every 2 years. Research your candidates HERE.

  • The lower chamber of the state legislature. 
  • They write and have a vote on legislation. 
  • They set state spending levels.
  • They determine when to raise or lower taxes 
  • Have the ability to uphold or override gubernatorial vetoes. 


Only for residents of Queens. This was pushed back due to Coronavirus. Research your candidates HERE.

  • They have influence over land use and development projects in their borough
  • Appoint members to community boards and other boards
  • Can spearhead legislation at the City Council in partnership with a council member, but cannot vote on it
  • Are respected representatives of their borough and have the ability to speak out about anything.


The city council consists of 51 members, each of whom are elected in partisan elections by the city’s fifty-one districts. Click here to see the district that you live in and the appointed council member. 

  • They are responsible for adopting the city budget
  • Approving mayoral appointees
  • Overseeing the use of municipal properties
  • Levying taxes
  • Making or amending city laws, policies, and ordinances


New York State Judicial Candidate Voter Guide

While the Appellate Court (the highest court in NY) is appointed by the governor and others are appointed by the mayor – you, as a voter get to vote on The NY Supreme Court and Civil Court. 

The Supreme Court (not to be confused with the Federal Supreme Court) is the state-wide trial court with the broadest jurisdiction, both in criminal and civil matters. The Supreme court justices are appointed to 14 years terms.  You can research your candidates HERE.

  • They handle civil matters over $25,000, divorce, separations, and annulment proceedings
  • Criminal prosecutions of felonies in NYC


Judges of the Civil Court serve terms of 10 years, and they sit in civil, criminal, or family court and can be acting Supreme Court justices. You can research your candidates HERE.

  • The Civil Court has monetary jurisdiction up to $25,000.00,
  • It has jurisdiction of real property actions, such as partitions, and foreclosures, within the monetary limit.
  • The Civil Court also has equity jurisdiction limited to real property actions, ejectment actions, and actions to rescind or reform a contract not involving more than the $25,000.00 jurisdictional limit.


  • If you’ve voted in New York before, you don’t need to provide an ID to vote.
  • If you’re a first-time voter who registered by mail and didn’t provide a copy of your ID with your registration, you may need to show ID to vote. Acceptable forms include a current and valid photo ID; or a copy of a current utility bill, bank statement, government check, paycheck, or another government document that shows your name and address.
  • Voters without ID: If you are unable to provide ID, you will be able to vote an affidavit ballot.


MAIL-IN VOTING (Must be postmarked by November 3, 2020 BUT the USPS suggests mailing at least 1 week BEFORE Election Day)

Mail-in voting was implemented across the state earlier this Summer by Governor Cuomo so that people could vote safely and not worry about the spread COVID. He said, “Voting is the cornerstone of democracy and we want each and every voter to feel safe and secure in the exercise of voting”. 

Absentee Ballots have their fair share of controversy. Earlier this month, over 100,000 ballots were mistakenly printed with the wrong return address. While many, including President Trump, have warned of “Voter fraud”, others have claimed that there hasn’t been enough evidence in the past to verify that claim.

Experts and the USPS claim that there are too many restrictions put in place (like ensuring envelopes come from the appropriate address and signature checking) for voter fraud. 

Pros: You can vote without changing out of your pajamas, waiting in line, or catching the ‘Rona at polling sites. You can also STILL vote in person if you’ve already received your absentee ballot. No, we are not telling you to vote twice, but in the event that your absentee ballot was not tracked, you think you made a mistake (like you forgot to sign and date it), you CAN still vote in person. The Board of Elections will VOID any absentee ballots and ONLY accept your in-person vote. Plus, if you want, you can also drop off your absentee ballot at the polls, or have someone else drop it off for you as long as it’s signed, sealed, and dated (with a kiss). We’re kidding about that last part. 

Cons: If your ballot was lost in the mail, signed improperly or kidnapped by spies, well, you may have lost your vote. You can find ballot tracking information here.

Need to Know: Your ballot MUST be postmarked by Tuesday, November 3, 2020, and received no later than Tuesday, November 10, 2020. You may also return your ballot in person by Tuesday, November 3, 2020 by 9:00 p.m. However, the USPS has openly stated that they will need more than a week to process the ballot so if you send it out now – it may be too late. 


New York has been SHOWING UP. Within the first 4 days, over 450,000 New Yorkers have turned up to early polling sites. Some have waited for hours, including Mayor de Blasio who waited for three.  

The early voting period started on Saturday, October 24, and runs till Sunday, November 1, but dates and hours may vary based on where you live. New York City has 88 early polling sites for five million registered voters. 

These poll sites may be different from your regular election day poll site. 

Pros: As long as you are registered to vote, you can head to an early voting poll site. No need to sign up! PLUS – hours have been extended! All early votes will be counted on Election Day. And remember, if you have an absentee ballot you can drop it off at any early voting or regular poll site till Election Day. Search for an early voting poll site and their dates and hours in your neighborhood by using this site Find My Poll Site.

Cons: Long lines. Some have reported voter intimidation with 3+ hour long lines, cops removing volunteers handing out PPE and more. Either way – the lines on Election Day may be worse so you may as well try and do your part. If you’ve ever waited for a cronut, Supreme drop, or boozy brunch – you can wait in line to vote. 


Voting poll sites will be open on November, 3, 2020 from 6 AM – 9 PM. You can find the poll sites HERE. There have been claims that there will be long lines and voter machine errors – but the majority of Americans are expected to vote on November 3, 2020. 


Let’s just say Election night is going to be…confusing. 

Due to the mix of in person, absentee and early voting – ballot counting is going to get weird. We won’t know who will win until every ballot is counted, and with different mail-in ballot deadlines by state, there could be a huge discrepancy between results on election night and the days and weeks after. For example, New York and Alaska will not report any mail votes on election night at all. Wisconsin has a mail-in ballot deadline for Election Day at 8 PM, as do most states. NY’s mail-in ballot deadline to be received is the 10th. 

According to the BBC, “In 2016, the final vote total took more than a month to count. Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton stretched her lead in the nationwide popular vote, but Mr. Trump had already won enough states to secure the presidency.” 


Let’s do a quick recap on the Electoral College which was implemented over 200 years ago, the Electoral College is supposed to ensure all states have equal representation in voting, regardless of population size.

In order for a presidential candidate to win they need to win the electoral vote, not the popular vote. This is going to be confusing but bare with us. 

There are 538 votes in the electoral college. This is equal to the 435 representatives in the House of Representatives aka Congress, 100 senators, and 3 members from the District of Colombia. The candidates are meant to represent each state. In order for the presidential candidate to win they need to win over half or 270 electoral votes. 

Each state has a certain allocation of electoral votes. This is based on the population of each state. States with larger populations have more electoral votes. California for instance, has 55 electoral votes whereas Rhode Island has 4. New York has 29. 

Side note, this is why the US Census is SO important! Having an accurate representation of the population will dictate how many representatives each state gets in Congress – the electoral college. 

If a candidate wins a state, they get all of the electoral votes of that state. States with large populations and electoral votes – like California, NY, Texas, Florida, Penn, Ohio, Illinois, Michigan, New Jersey, NC, Georgia, Virginia – are often sought after by presidential candidates. A candidate could win the vote in these 11 states, LOSE in all 39 and still WIN the entire election. 

In 2016, Hillary won the popular vote, but Trump won because of the states with higher electoral votes.  


Election night results will be delayed due to the delay of mail-in ballots. Whether we’ll see another 2016 popular vs electoral debacle, who knows? When asked whether he would step down if he lost, President Trump suggested he would take the case to the Supreme Court for a recount. Expect a nail-biting few days as ballots are counted and mailer fraud is called. In the meantime, go out, get your vote out, and wear your mask!

*The New York Supreme Court is NOT to be confused with the Federal Supreme Court which has been in the news lately because of the Amy Coney Barret debacle. The Federal Supreme Court is the ultimate arbiter of cases.  ).

Chau Mui

Chau is the original New York City stoop kid who cut her teeth hanging out in Union Square, ate soup dumplings in Chinatown and explored this great city by train, foot and everything in between.

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