Did you get a postcard from the Tompkins County Board of Elections telling you the primary election is September 13? You may want to vote this Tuesday in the presidential primary, too.
The postcards aren’t wrong, and they’re not lying — they’re just misleading, because they’re talking about the state and local primary election, which really is in September. But the primary election everyone wants to hear about right now is this Tuesday, April 19. That’s the presidential primary, to select the candidates for this fall’s presidential election.
Something similar happened in Brooklyn, but there, the misleading postcards said, “The date on the notice for the Primary Election was incorrect. The correct date is September 13.” That New York City board says the correction was to a notice that really was incorrect, telling people the state and local primary was on September 28, but it’s still confusing some recipients into thinking there’s no primary this week.
The Tompkins County Board of Elections didn’t respond to our request for comment on their misleading postcards, or our suggestion (almost two weeks ago) that they consider sending replacement postcards to clarify. We’d like to give them the benefit of the doubt that this was an honest mistake, and that they didn’t intend to mislead any voters into thinking there was no primary this week.
There is a primary this week.
Keep in mind that there’s only a presidential primary for New York State voters who are registered Democrats or Republicans. New York may have an open primary in the future, but not this year. If you’re registered in another political party, or you’re registered to vote but not enrolled in a political party, you can’t vote in the primary. (You had until October 9 to change your party affiliation for this week’s primary.)
Polling places are open for the presidential primary from 12 noon to 9pm this Tuesday, April 19. In some parts of New York State, polls will be open from 6am to 9pm, just like for a general election, but not here. If you’re used to voting before your workday, you may have to adjust your plans. (The Buffalo and Western New York area, and the Metro New York City area are where most of the counties with 6am-9pm poll hours are.)
Not sure where you vote? Check the handy NYS voter lookup tool.
New York State law gives voters time off from work to vote on election day, but the deadline to ask your boss for time off was last week. (You can still ask, but they don’t have to say yes.)
How do you vote?
The presidential primary in the State of New York is a little different for Democrats and Republicans. For Republicans, just vote for the candidate you’d like to be nominated by the party to run in November. Donald Trump, John Kasich, Ted Cruz, and Ben Carson are all on the ballot in New York, even though Dr. Carson dropped out of the race.
Democrats have the opportunity to vote not just for the presidential candidate of their choice, but for up to five delegates who’ll attend the Democratic National Convention later this year to vote on the nominee. In Tompkins County, there are five locals who’ve committed to vote for Bernie Sanders if they get sent to the convention, and five who say they’ll vote for Hillary Clinton. The delegates for each candidate are on the same row, so Bernie Sanders fans will find Sanders delegates on Row A right next to him, and Hillary Clinton fans will find Clinton delegates on Row B, along with her. These delegates aren’t running for office on this ballot, so this is one of those moments where your best bet is to vote all one row, no matter what you think of the individual delegates.
Need an absentee ballot?
If you can’t get to the polling place on Tuesday afternoon or evening, you can apply for an absentee ballot in person until 5pm on Monday, the day before the election, at the Board of Elections at 128 East Buffalo Street.
What about the other elections?
There really is a primary election on September 13, for the political parties to select candidates to run for state and local offices in November’s general election. Before that, there’s a village election in Lansing next Tuesday (the 26th), and there’s a federal primary election on June 28. That’s not counting area board of education votes for school board members and the school budget, on May 17.