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What To Do If You're Told You Can't Vote on Election Day

By Jeff Mays | October 24, 2016 5:50pm | Updated on November 8, 2016 11:40am
 What should you do if you show up to vote for president on Nov. 8 and are told you can't?
What should you do if you show up to vote for president on Nov. 8 and are told you can't?
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DNAinfo/Carolina Pichardo

FORT GREENE — Republican Presidential nominee Donald Trump has called the national election is "rigged" and the notoriously disorganized Board of Elections hasn't taken Mayor Bill de Blasio up on his offer of $20 million to institute reforms.

"The State of New York is arcane; it has got a set of voting standards that are some of the least effective, least inviting in the country," de Blasio said recently in calling for election reforms. "It makes it hard for people to register, hard for people to vote."

There were widespread problems when New Yorkers showed up to the polls to vote in the April presidential primary.

READ MORE: Here's What You Need to Know Before You Vote on Nov. 8

So what should you do if you show up to vote for president and are told you can't?

Check your registration

According to the New York City Board of Elections, voters can try to avoid problems at the polls by checking their registration status before heading to their polling location. Voters can check their registration status on the New York State voter registration site look-up site.

To make sure you aren't at the wrong location, you can visit the BOE's poll locator site.

"We encourage all voters to visit our poll site locator to find their poll site, confirm their (election district and Assembly district) and view their sample ballot prior to Election Day," said BOE spokeswoman Valerie Vazquez.

Those who can't make it to the polls on election day may be eligible for an absentee ballot either in-person or by mail.

Rose Clouston, a national coordinator for the Washington, D.C.-based Lawyers Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, said their "Election Protection" hotline —1 (866) OUR VOTE —will be up and running 30 minutes before and 30 minutes after the polls open and close on Election Day.

"Sometimes it might be something as simple as they are at the wrong voting place," said Clouston.

The group received more than 700 calls and e-mails from New Yorkers for help during the chaotic April primary.

"We have been following the situation in New York since the primary and are ready to help voters with any issue that may arise," said Clouston.

Use an affidavit ballot or get a court order

If your name is not on the voter registration list or the poll ledger, you should be offered an affidavit ballot, or be given the process by which to seek a court order to allow you to vote, according to state Attorney General Eric Schneiderman.

"Any voter whose name does not appear in the book on Election Day will be given an affidavit," said Vazquez.

Schneiderman's office wrote a letter to the New York State Board of Elections on Oct. 17 demanding that they require local boards to clarify their affidavit process.

After a messy presidential primary in April, Schneiderman's office announced they would be investigating allegations of voter disenfranchisement.

Schneiderman's office said their preliminary investigation found that "many poll workers are not receiving consistent guidance about their legal obligations with respect to affidavit ballots," according to the letter.

"It is critical that we ensure all eligible New Yorkers are able to cast an effective ballot on Election Day. Poll workers must offer affidavit ballots to voters who believe they are registered, even if they do not appear in poll books,” said Schneiderman.

Report any issues you encounter

Comptroller Scott Stringer, who also opened an audit of the New York City BOE, said the office would be monitoring the presidential elections as part of its audit.

“What we know is that voter fraud — as studies show — is exceptionally rare. What we don’t know yet is why so many complaints have been made about the Board of Elections being disorganized and inefficient," Stringer said.

"There is nothing more sacred than the right to vote — and that’s why we’re looking under the hood at the Board of Elections following reports of massive voter disenfranchisement and egregious mismanagement in recent elections," he added.

The attorney general also has an election hotline that voters can call for troubleshooting help on Election Day.

Voters can call 1-800-771-7755 or email civil.rights@ag.NY.gov between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m on Election Day.

Attorneys and staff from the attorney general's Civil Rights Bureau will be answering calls.