TOMPKINS COUNTY, N.Y. — For Tompkins County residents wondering how to cast a vote this election season, there are a number of options available. For those who have already made up their mind, absentee ballots will soon be available from the board of elections.

After a primary earlier this year marked with confusion due to the coronavirus pandemic, Gov. Andrew Cuomo signed a package of executive orders and legislation aimed at streamlining the process of requesting and submitting a ballot for November’s general election.

“This election is going to be one of the most critical in modern history. It will be controversial. You already hear the statements questioning the vote, and the accuracy of the vote, and mail-in ballots. We want to make sure that every vote is counted; every voice is heard and that it’s fair and right and accurate,” Cuomo said in a release at the end of August, when he announced the changes. “I’m issuing today’s executive order because we want boards of elections to count votes efficiently and we want them to get it right, but we want it done in a timely manner. We don’t want to hear after-the-fact excuses.”

But what will that look like for you, on the ground in Tompkins County, trying to cast your ballot in an uncertain time? For one, you’ll have lots of extra time.

Absentee Voting

For those who wish to avoid polling places or may have an underlying condition that leaves them more vulnerable to COVID-19, the state has continued to allow concerns of contracting the coronavirus to the list of acceptable reasons for requesting an absentee ballot under the  “temporary illness or physical disability” allowance.

To receive an absentee ballot, voters must first file an application for the ballot with the Tompkins County Board of Elections. Those who applied for an absentee ballot for the 2020 primary elections need to apply again for an absentee ballot for the general election. They can do this by filling out an application form and filing it through the mail, by calling the Board of Elections office at (607) 274-5522, in person at the board of elections office at 128 East Buffalo Street, or electronically by any of the methods below.

Once the Board of Elections receives the application and ballots become available, one will be sent to the voter in the manner requested. The general election ballot will be available on Oct. 2, according to the Tompkins County Board of Elections.

Voters will mark the ballot and insert it into the provided oath envelope and seal the envelope. Voters are reminded not to put anything but the ballot into the oath envelope. They will then sign their name after the oath on the outside of the envelope and place the oath envelope inside the provided return envelope to return it to the Tompkins County Board of Elections.

The completed absentee ballot can be returned via U.S. mail or dropped off in person at any early polling place or at the Board of Elections (128 East Buffalo Street, Ithaca, NY 14850) during business hours or until 9 p.m. on Election Day. Early voting locations will also be accepting absentee ballots. 

The ballots will remain in secure storage at the county board of elections until they are opened and counted. The counting of the absentee ballots will begin as soon as practicable after Election Day. Legislation signed by the governor requires that county boards of elections be prepared to begin counting absentee and affidavit ballots 48 hours polls close.

Early Voting

Want to cast your vote in person, but want to avoid those lunchtime or after work polling place rushes? Early voting may be the option for you.

Early Voting is scheduled for 60 hours across nine days, beginning Oct. 24 and running through Nov. 1, anyone registered to vote in Tompkins County can go to either of the county’s two Early Voting sites.

The process, aside from the polling place, is similar to voting on elections day. Show up, sign the electronic poll book, get your ballot, mark your ballot, and cast the ballot.

Source: Tompkins County Board of Elections

Election Day Voting

Not interested in early or absentee voting? Well, the classic, election day ballot casting may be for you!

The only major change to day-of, in-person voting will be the requirement that voters wear a mask, use hand sanitizer and wear gloves provided by the county at all times as well as maintaining 6 feet of physical distance while in the polling place.

All Tompkins County polling places will be open between 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Voters must go to their assigned polling place during those hours. A map of the City of Ithaca’s voting districts and their corresponding polling places can be found here. All other towns and villages in Tompkins can find their districts and polling place maps here. Voters will sign the electronic poll book, get their ballot, mark their ballot, and then cast the ballot.