Tristan Amond’s Voter Resource Roundup

Tristan Amond

Editor’s Note:


Tristan Amond (Product Manager) is someone who’s very passionate about the electoral process. He regularly updates ‘Keeters about the voting process and shares nonpartisan resources at our all-hands “Circle Up” meetings.  

In the time of COVID-19, where many are busy with their lives and are being presented with a unique set of challenges, it can be hard to find the time to source that information ourselves. We are incredibly grateful to have someone on the team who is so knowledgeable about the voting process and who is passionate about making voting information accessible. Read this comprehensive, FAQ-style roundup of voting resources from Tristan to see for yourself!

These days it can feel like politics has consumed everything else. More people think the outcome of the election matters than ever before, and for good reason–Americans are experiencing a crippling pandemic, the effects of climate change, a reckoning with racial injustice, a rapidly-transitioning economy, and rising geopolitical competition. Regardless of the electoral outcome, our President will have his hands full. However, what isn’t always as obvious is how downballot candidates like state and local officials can impact your day-to-day just as much (if not more) than the top of the ticket.

The good news is that more people are also registering to vote. 300,000 voters are expected to participate in the 2020 election in Onondaga County alone, with 1,000 people applying for absentee ballots every day. If current projections hold, the 2020 election will break the 2004 record for voter participation. For many, it will be the first time they’ve voted.

I first voted when I became eligible in 2012, but it wasn’t until after the 2016 election that I became more interested in both local and national politics. After I joined a local organization that collaborated with city government, I learned how local officials work to create and enact policies that I saw impact people’s lives every day. One example of this is the Syracuse bike share program, brought to life through the combined efforts of Adapt CNY’s Transportation Task Force and the Walsh administration. As part of Adapt CNY, I was able to see how votes for city officials translate into actions that benefit our community.

Unfortunately, too many people are either unable or unmotivated to exercise their right to vote. Learning more about the history of women’s suffrage, civil rights, and modern-day Jim Crow laws made me realize the importance of our right to vote, but actually going through the process myself helped me understand how complicated it can be just to successfully cast a ballot. I want to do whatever I can to help lower that barrier of entry so that people are able to engage with politics, learn more about the candidates, and vote for someone that will enact the changes they want to see for their family, their community, and their country. This election cycle, I’ll be working at the polls as an election inspector to make sure voters are able to cast their ballots successfully. If you’d like to help, consider becoming an election inspector yourself! As a poll worker, you’ll help process voters and play an instrumental role in conducting a free and fair election for everyone. Learn more and sign up on workelections.com.

Voting can be an un-intuitive process, especially [if you’re] voting for the first time. Below are some common questions I’ve heard surrounding politics and voting, along with answers tailored to Onondaga County residents. If you have any additional questions on voting processes, feel free to call your county board of elections for more information. You can reach the Onondaga County Board of Elections at (315) 435-8683.

What am I actually voting for?

This is a Presidential election year, so at a national level, you will be voting for a Presidential candidate in addition to any House or Senate elections in your state. Neither New York Senator is up for re-election, but all House representatives are on the ballot this year; in Onondaga County, this includes Republican incumbent John Katko, Democratic candidate Dana Balter, and Working Families candidate Steven Williams. Additional elected positions on the 2020 General Election ballot in Onondaga County include State Supreme Court Justice; State Senator; Member of Assembly; Family Court Judge; and City Court Judge.

How do I learn more about my representatives in Congress?

Two of the best ways to learn more about a representative or candidate are from media reports about them produced by third parties or from candidate-affiliated channels, including the candidate themselves.

When looking for more information on national candidates from new outlets, make sure to gauge the political bias inherent to any news organization and consume their coverage with that framing in mind. Some news outlets commonly considered to be relatively neutral are National Public Radio, Associated Press, Reuters, and BBC America.

Coverage on local candidates can be a bit harder to find. Syracuse.com has produced articles comparing House candidates’ positions on healthcare and police reform. You can also watch House candidates John Katko and Dana Balter participate in three debates closer to the election.

To learn more about your representatives’ viewpoints, follow them on social media, read their press releases, and watch their interviews. But don’t take their word for granted —  they’re politicians, it’s in their nature to present best-case scenarios that may sometimes stretch the bounds of credulity. Fact-check them against local or national reporting. Do your own research if something doesn’t add up.

Your representatives also present your biggest opportunity to enact change outside of voting. Call your representatives and tell them what you think. Regardless of their political party, they have been elected to represent your voice – make sure to share your views with them. Learn more about why calling your representatives is so effective from the New York Times.

How do I register to vote?

New Yorkers can check their voter registration status and poll site location here. As a New York resident, you can register to vote through the DMV, other NYS agency offices, visit a voter registration center, or request a New York State Voter Registration form by mail. When you register to vote, you can also enroll in a political party, which allows you to participate in primary elections. Find more information on voter registration in New York State at the Board of Elections website.

You must mail or submit your voter registration by October 9. If you have moved since the last time you voted, you must change your address by October 14. Find more voter registration deadline information here. Questions? Call the Onondaga County Board of Elections at (315) 435-8683.

What are all these different voting methods?

Early Voting

Early voting is one of the most effective ways to minimize the risk of contracting Coronavirus while ensuring your vote is counted. This voting method allows registered voters to vote prior to election day; in New York state, early voting begins on October 24 and runs through November 1. Unlike voting on Election Day, you are able to vote at any early voting location. Onondaga County residents can find more information on early voting here.

Absentee Voting

Absentee voting was first used during the Civil War for active-duty soldiers to cast ballots while away from their home states. Eligible voters can apply for an absentee ballot, receive a ballot, and send their ballot in all through the mail service. In many states, voters can also drop their completed ballot off at a drop-off location or an election office. Learn more about how absentee ballots work in this video from Syracuse.com.

States have applied different approaches to absentee voting during the Coronavirus pandemic. New York considers “fear of contracting Coronavirus” to be a valid absentee ballot excuse for the 2020 general election. This means you can apply for an absentee ballot from the New York State Board of Elections here. NOTE: You must already be a registered voter to apply for an absentee ballot.

To vote via an absentee ballot, you must first fill out an absentee ballot application and return the application to the Board of Elections, then receive your absentee ballot and return that to the Board of Elections. You can track the status of your absentee ballot on it’s way to you in Onondaga County through their absentee ballot check tool. If you haven’t received your absentee ballot or it’s taking longer than you think it should, you can call the Board of Elections to get another ballot.

The United States Post Office has made recent changes that may make it harder for the Board of Elections to receive your absentee ballot in time. I strongly recommend that you turn in your absentee ballot to the Board of Elections in person. If you are unable to do so, [you should] mail your absentee ballot back as soon as possible. You can track the status of your absentee ballot on it’s way to the Board of Elections in Onondaga County through their absentee ballot check tool.

The deadline to mail absentee ballots to be received by the Board of Elections on Election Day is October 19. You can still deliver them in person after that date up until November 3 (Election Day).

Election Day

When voting on Election Day, know that you can only vote at the precinct in which you are registered. This is based on your home address on file with the County Board of Elections. You can find your polling location on the New York State Board of Elections website. In Onondaga County, the polls open at 6 A.M. and close at 9 P.M. If you are in line by 9 P.M., you are legally allowed to vote, so stay in line!

Mark your calendars

  • October 9: Voter registration deadline
  • October 19: Last day to guarantee returned absentee ballot will be delivered via mail by Election Day
  • October 24: Early voting begins
  • October 27: Absentee ballot application submission deadline (mail, email, fax)
  • November 1: Early voting ends
  • November 2: Absentee ballot application submission deadline (in-person)
  • November 3: Election day
  • November 3: Returned absentee ballot postmark deadline
  • November 10: Board of Elections deadline to receive mailed absentee ballots

Tristan is a Product Manager at Terakeet.