ALBANY, NY (WENY) – With election day less than 24 hours away, the League of Women Voters stressed the importance of voters casting their ballots and understanding their constitutional rights.
“Democracy does not work unless every single person within that democracy is given the right to let their voice be heard,” said Erica Smitka, Deputy Director of the League of Women Voters NYS.
Under New York State Election Law, voters have a list of rights including taking paid time off work to vote, voting free from harassment or intimidation, voting without an ID, taking what are called challenge oaths, and more.
New York State Election law also protects accessibility and individuals with special circumstances like people who have disabilities, are homeless, were criminally convicted or are survivors of domestic violence.
Victims of domestic violence can request accommodations from their local board of elections. They can ask for a special ballot that allows them to avoid their local polling location. They can also have their voter registration, which is normally public information, kept private by obtaining a court order in the county that they registered.
Smitka said accessibility is one of the most important pieces of New York State’s election law. She said some voters have to overcome a great deal of challenges just to physically get to the polls.
“Voters have already done enough by the time they get to the polls, so it is so important that you cast your ballot once you get there,” Smitka said.
Perry Grossman from the New York Civil Liberties Union, highlighted that accessibility voting rights are important for voters with disabilities, and for voters whose first language is not English.
He said some counties have ballots printed in other languages. It is also within a voter’s right to bring a person with them if they need physical assistance or language assistance, as long as that person is not their union rep or employer.
Grossman also explained that election laws in a practical sense give voters the right to go into polls well informed, un-intimidated, un-interfered with, and to have all the assistance needed, but in a larger sense, they can also do a lot more.
“Voting rights are your right as a citizen of this state to hold your elected officials accountable, it is your steak in democracy, it is your ability to claim ownership and self-governance,” he said.
As a voter, if you experience any kind of intimidation or violation of your rights, you can call the Attorney General’s Office or the Election Protection Hotline.