How registered voters can change parties for NY’s unusual August primary

How registered voters can change parties for NY's unusual August primary

A loophole in state election law created by the redistricting court decision offers a unique opportunity for all registered voters to cast a ballot in the August 23rd state Senate and congressional primaries, even if that means joining a different political party.

Registered voters have the option to change their party affiliation up to and including Primary Day. On Tuesday, the state Board of Elections sent guidance to elections commissioners across New York on how to handle this unusual circumstance.

Here’s what you need to know if you plan to change parties so you can vote in the August 23rd primary.

Does this mean anyone can cast a ballot in the August 23rd primary election?

No. This is not same-day voter registration. You must be a registered voter. The deadline for new voters to register in person is Friday, July 29th. To be eligible to register to vote in New York state and federal elections you must be a United States citizen who will be 18 at the time of the election (pre-registration is available for 16- and 17-year-olds) and living at your address for at least 30 days. You cannot register if you are in prison for a felony conviction or found mentally unfit by a court or have already registered to vote in another county outside New York City.

If you are mailing a voter registration form, it must be postmarked by Friday, July 29th and received by your county or the New York City Board of Elections by August 3rd.

Voter registration forms are available at BOE offices. A list of city BOE offices are available here.

If I am currently registered to vote but not with a political party, or I want to change parties for this election, what do I do?

Voters can submit an updated voter registration form selecting the party they wish to register with for this primary election to their local BOE. If the form is processed ahead of the election and the voter’s name appears in the poll book for the respective party holding the primary, then the voter will be able to cast their ballot on the scanner.

If the voter’s name does not appear in the poll book, they can request an affidavit ballot. On the affidavit, the voter will select the party they are joining. Then they will be able to cast a ballot and have their vote counted in that primary contest.

If I submit an affidavit ballot, do I become a permanent member of another party?

When a voter completes an affidavit ballot, it functions as a voter registration form. In this case, their party affiliation will be changed until the voter submits another registration form to change it back. The deadline for changing party affiliation for next year’s primary elections will be February 14, 2023.

Do all election officials across New York State know about this party change “anomaly”?

The state BOE sent out guidance to all commissioners on Tuesday. A copy of that guidance is here.

What if I requested an absentee ballot and then decide to go vote in person? Can I still change parties?

If a voter requested an absentee ballot and decides to go to a poll site, the voter will automatically be given an affidavit ballot.

If the voter already submitted their absentee ballot, the affidavit ballot will not count.

However, if a voter requested an absentee ballot but did not submit it, the voter could update their party affiliation to vote in a different party’s primary. That affidavit ballot would count.

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