Your Rights as a Voter

Can I vote without a permanent address?

YES! In 1984, Coalition for the Homeless filed the lawsuit Pitts v. Black, which guaranteed the right to vote for homeless New Yorkers living in shelters, on the streets, or in welfare hotels.

What do I need when I go to vote?

Nothing. Arrive at your poll site between 6 a.m. and 9 p.m. on November 3rd for the general election. As long as you registered to vote before the October 9th deadline, you do not need to show identification in order to vote. Ideally, you should vote in the district where you registered or previously voted. However, you can instead vote in the district where you now live by using an affidavit or paper ballot. Voters can also participate in early voting between October 24th and November 1st, but the poll site for early voting may be different. For more information about your poll site, contact the NYC Board of Elections at 1-866-VOTE-NYC.

This fall, all New York voters can vote by mail due to the risk of contracting the coronavirus. You can select “Temporary illness or disability” as the reason for your request. You can apply for an absentee ballot by October 27th online at vote.nyc or by calling 1-866-VOTE-NYC. You may apply in-person by November 2nd. Ballots will be mailed beginning September 18th.

What should I do when I enter the poll site?

At the poll site, you will see tables and voting machines set up for your election district and others. At the table for your district, you will be asked to sign next to a facsimile of your signature on an alphabetized, computerized polling list. If your name does not appear on the roster, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot.

Can I vote if I have committed a felony or am currently on parole?

  • If you have committed a felony and have finished your sentence: Your rights have been reinstated and you are eligible to register and vote in this year’s election.
  • If you are currently on parole: Some people on parole can vote, some cannot. If you are unsure, you can check your status online at vote.nyc. Even if you are currently not able to vote, you will regain your right to vote at the end of your parole period, and you may register and vote at that time.

What if I have trouble trying to vote?

If your name does not appear on the computerized polling list or you are told that you are not eligible to vote, ask for an affidavit or paper ballot. After November 3rd, the Board of Elections will check its records, and your vote will be counted if you are indeed eligible to vote. If not, you will receive a notice that you are not eligible, along with a registration application for future elections. You may also call one of the numbers listed below for assistance on the day of the election.

For more information or assistance, contact:

NYC Board of Elections: 1-866-VOTE-NYC (toll-free)
NY Attorney General Election Hotline: 1-800-771-7755
Coalition for the Homeless: 212-776-2003

Harmonia Residents

Meanwhile, a vocal group of neighbors on the Upper West Side objected to the use of nearby hotels to shelter people experiencing homelessness, even in the midst of a pandemic. They commiserated about so-called “quality of life” issues in a Facebook group and complained to the media, often using inflammatory and racist language while ignoring the humanity of their homeless neighbors. They also raised funds and hired a well-connected lawyer to threaten to sue the City unless the homeless people were ejected from the neighborhood’s hotels. (Read more here.)

In September, the Mayor announced his intention to move homeless people out of the Lucerne Hotel on the Upper West Side and another hotel in Queens, which the NIMBY group hailed as a victory. The single adults were to be moved from these hotels into facilities currently sheltering families, like the Harmonia shelter in Midtown. The Mayor later halted this move in response to activism from homeless New Yorkers and advocates.

Here’s how Harmonia residents felt about being at risk of abrupt ejection from their shelter.

NYC plans to move more homeless to appease complaining residents of well-off neighborhoods, City Council member says

Families with children are being moved from a Brooklyn homeless shelter one week before school starts to appease well-to-do New Yorkers who don’t want homeless people among them, said a City Council member who deals with social welfare issues.

In the city’s latest round of homeless musical chairs, women now housed in the LIC Plaza Hotel in Long Island City will be moved to the Flatlands Family Residence in Brooklyn, said City Councilman Stephen Levin.

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