This year, more New York residents than ever have decided to vote absentee (by mail) because of the COVID pandemic.
And earlier this week, just a few weeks before Election Day, an estimated 100,000 New Yorkers are finding that their absentee ballots contain incorrect personal information, incorrect envelopes, or typos.
Multiple voters in Brooklyn received a mislabeled “official absentee ballot envelope.” Normally, voters insert their completed ballots into the envelopes and sign the outside. But in these cases, their ballot envelopes bear the wrong name and address. If a person signs their own name to a faulty ballot envelope, their ballot will not count.
So far, voters in Park Slope, Prospect Heights, Carroll Gardens, Crown Heights, Clinton Hill, Bushwick, Flatbush, Brooklyn Heights, Sunset Park, Williamsburg, Bedford-Stuyvesant, and Fort Greene have reported the issue.
Some voters said they received absentee ballots mislabeled as the official ballot for military members, while others said the envelope meant to return their ballot did not bear their name or address.
What a mess! Here’s what to do if you got one.
If you received an Absentee Ballot Marked as “Official Absentee Military Ballot”
These ballots are still valid, despite the typo. Even if you are not a member of the military, the New York City Board of Elections has stated that this is the correct ballot and can be sent in as is.
If you received an Absentee Ballot with an Incorrect Return Envelope
Ballots with accompanying return envelopes that don’t have your name and address on them should not be used.
The Board of Elections will mail new absentee ballots to the nearly 100,000 voters who received erroneous envelopes in their absentee ballot packages. Wait for a new ballot package to ensure your vote counts or make an alternative plan for voting!
City Board of Elections officials are encouraging voters to email or call a hotline with reports of erroneous ballots: “Contact the BOE by emailing Apply4Absentee@boe.nyc or calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC.” But be aware — the phone lines have been overwhelmed.
Some voters have also headed to BOE offices to return the ballots in person to avoid long waits on the phone. The Brooklyn BOE office is at 345 Adams Street. The Queens office is at 118-35 Queens Blvd. in Forest Hills.
If you mailed in your ballot already and didn’t notice an error but are now worried that your ballot had an error you didn’t notice
If you already returned the original ballot you received, please also mark and send back the new ballot mailed by the BOE — if you get a new ballot that means yours was printed with the others that contained errors. The Board of Elections will ensure that your correct, second ballot is the only ballot counted.
If you’ve decided you want to vote in person after requesting an absentee ballot
You can decide to visit an early voting place or vote on election day in person even if you requested an absentee ballot. You can even vote in person if you cast and returned an absentee ballot. If a voter comes to the poll site, their absentee ballot is set aside and not counted.
Election officials in New York are encouraging people to vote in person at early poll sites, which open statewide on Oct. 24 and are expected to have shorter lines than Election Day poll sites. Voting early and in person will help avoid overwhelming the Postal Service and election boards with mail-in ballots.
For more information about absentee voting, check out the New York Board of Elections web site.
Find your polling place or early voting site.
Voting is so important and in spite of these ballot errors you should definitely vote!
If you’re not yet registered to vote or are registered and want to vote by mail because you’re worried about voting in person doing a health pandemic, you still have time. But not a lot of time!
New voter registration forms in New York must be postmarked by October 9th.
The last day to apply for a mail-in absentee ballot is October 27th.
Election day is November 3rd!