NYC Teens: Are You #VoteReady?
Get the answers to the important questions:
- When Do I Need to Vote?
- Why Do I Need to Vote?
- What Am I Voting For?
- How Do I Vote?
- I Can't Vote Yet. What Can I Do?
2023 General Election: Important Dates
Tues, Sep 19: National Voter Registration Day (NVRD)
Celebrate NVRD, a nonpartisan civic holiday, with NYPL! Pick up a voter registration form at any NYPL branch and discover events and voter registration drives.
Sat, Oct 28: Voter Registration Deadline for the General Election
Sat, Oct 28–Sun, Nov 5: Early Voting
Tues, Nov 7: General Election Day
Voting determines much more than just the presidency every four years; it’s crucial all year round. Your vote is decisive in local elections determining the next candidate to fill positions from Comptroller to District Attorney—in other words, who controls the money and who upholds the law.
Primary, General, Congressional, State, and Local Elections: What Does It All Mean?!
Primary elections are held before the general election and allow voters to select the candidates who will run on each party ticket (e.g. Republican, Democratic) for the general election.
General elections are held to elect candidates to public office. To vote in a primary you must be registered with the relevant party.
Congressional elections take place every two years, and these elections determine who represents your state in Congress. They also decide which political party—Democratic or Republican—will hold a majority in each chamber of Congress for the next two years.
State and local elections happen every year and at various times throughout the year. Statewide elections determine who becomes governor and who goes to the state legislature. Local elections determine who gets appointed as judges, local officials, and mayors. Learn more about what your elected officials can do here.
Special elections don't happen often, but if they do, it's because an elected official ended their term early: perhaps they won a higher office, accepted a new job, or were expelled.
Ranked-choice voting allows people to vote for multiple candidates in order of preference. You can now fill out the ballot saying who is your first choice, second choice, and so on up to your fifth-choice candidate for each position. Learn more about ranked-choice voting here and here.
Starting with the primary elections in June 2021, New York City has used ranked-choice voting for primary and special elections for mayor, public advocate, comptroller, borough president, and city council. General elections continue to use plurality voting (the candidate with the most votes wins).
How to fill out your ranked-choice ballot:
Rank your top five candidates in order
Mark your favorite candidate in the first column
Mark the rest, in order, in their respective columns
Do not skip any columns
Mark as many candidates as you feel comfortable ranking (up to five)
Choosing multiple candidates does not hurt your first choice, but you can select up to five candidates.
What Else is On My Ballot
Learn about what you're voting for by researching every race and referendum on the ballot using Ballotpedia.
You can do so much to get involved with elections, even if you're not of voting age yet. Here are some tips on how to get involved:
Help Make a Voting Plan for Family/Friends
If you know about who’s on the ballot, the issues they may or may not support, and polling locations, then share what you know via social media, a podcast, or blog, or by talking to your friends and family.
Engage with Election Candidates
Follow and comment on election candidates' social media posts, write letters, and look for opportunities to hear them speak or ask them questions.
Take a Youth Training
NYC Votes offers hour-long workshops and trainings for teens and young adults on different topics like why is the youth vote so important, how to register people to vote, and, this year, a special session all about ranked-choice voting.
Use Your Skills
You may not think it, but as a teenager, you have many skills at your fingertips to help others vote. Consider that many people don't vote because most of the information available isn't in their native language. If you're able, walk people through websites or offer to make calls on their behalf to make sure they get their voter registration and ballots in their native language. Put that tech savvy to use and show friends and family how easy it is to register to vote online or apply for an absentee ballot. Have a license and access to a car? Offer to drive people to their polling places (taking COVID-19 precautions, of course!).
Volunteer to Register People to Vote
Volunteering allows you to connect to your community and gather experience while supporting a cause you have chosen to help. There are many organizations you can join, like Headcount or NYC Votes, which organize events (currently all virtual) to get people registered to vote. You can also organize a group of your friends to help people find out if they are registered to vote using your smartphone and the Voter Look-Up tool, or send out email blasts reminding people to vote! And check out the Youth Vote NYC to see how you can set up a student registration voter drive at your school.
This resource guide was compiled and written by Genee Bright, Adult Librarian at the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Library, and Emma Eriksson, Young Adult Librarian at the Hunt's Point Library.