Your guide to some changes at the polls


Vote in the Primary

If you are not currently registered as a Democrat and you want to vote in the 2020 Democratic presidential primary, the governor just signed legislation extending your drop-dead change of registration date until Feb. 14. This deadline will apply both to the presidential primary April 28 and to the federal/state primary June 23.

Early Voting

It’s about time! New York state has early voting, starting this year. Here are the details.

You may vote early no matter what your situation is. You don’t have to prove that you can’t vote on Election Day, Nov. 5. No matter where you live in Tompkins County, just show up at either of the two early voting sites and vote.

The city will provide special parking at Ithaca Town Hall, and there is ample parking at CFR.

Places: Ithaca Town Hall, 215 N. Tioga St., Ithaca and Crash Fire Rescue (CFR), 72 Brown Rd., Ithaca. See the chart for times.

Here’s what to expect when you enter one of the two polling sites: If you happen to have a NYS driver’s license or have kept your orange postcard from the board of elections, you can expedite the process by having the poll worker scan it. Otherwise, the poll worker will ask for your name and address and locate you in the e-poll database. You will sign in with a stylus on a tablet.

The poll worker will print out—in seconds—the correct ballot for your election district. You will fill out the ballot as you normally do and scan it in the voting machine.

If you choose not to vote early, go to your usual polling place on Election Day, Nov. 5, between the hours of 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. If you vote absentee, the process is the same as it has been.

Electronic Poll Books

It’s true - New York state has joined the 21st century and 40 other states in using e-poll books. No longer do poll workers need to ask your name and page through those enormous volumes of signatures.

E-poll books are tablets or laptops with databases of voter information. You sign your name using a stylus, the poll worker checks your information, and you are ready to vote. You don’t need to stand in a line for A-G or S-Z; any e-poll poll worker can sign you in.

In theory, all of this innovation will speed up the voting process. However, it’s worth remembering that this is all new in 2019, and some glitches are sure to happen. Be kind to your poll workers, and consider voting early to avoid the rush!

Who’s on the ballot in 2019?

Sample ballots will show up soon on the Board of Elections website. Along Row A, you will see two candidates, Peter Charnetsky and Claudette Newman, for Supreme Court in the 6th Judicial District.

You will see Scott Miller’s name as the candidate for county court judge. Depending where you live, you may see names of a mayor and alderperson, or you may see town positions from supervisor and clerk to highway superintendent and Town Board member.

These are the elections that affect your daily life, from your safety to your housing options to the condition of your roads. The less we can rely on federal government, the more cities and towns need to step up and ensure that our values are reflected in our representatives. So, make a plan and vote.

Kathy Zahler is Director of Communications for the Tompkins County Democratic Committee. See the committee website at


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