Election 2020 voter registration, resources

Dear Cornell Community,

Our democracy relies on an informed and engaged electorate. We each have an active role to play in upholding that civic responsibility by educating ourselves on the issues, registering to vote and casting our ballots.

With the 2020 United States general election less than one month away, I encourage every eligible person in our community to register to vote if they have not done so already. The deadline to register in New York state is this Friday, Oct. 9. Registration deadlines vary by state, and there are additional resources below to assist anyone seeking more information.

Registering is just one step in the process, as reports have shown that only a fraction of those who register actually vote – this is especially true on college campuses. Decisions made during this, or any, election create long-lasting policy impacts at the local, state and national levels. If you are unsure about the issues or candidates, take time to do your own research, engage in conversations with friends and colleagues or join any number of virtual events scheduled throughout October.

The Institute of Politics and Global Affairs and the Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies are each hosting a series of virtual events featuring faculty, policymakers and other expert voices and discussing a number of timely and topical issues. These and other election-related lectures, webinars and activities can be found on Cornell’s event calendar.

It is also important to make a voting plan. Familiarize yourself with the different methods of voting and determine which option is best for you. For example, you may need to plan ahead by scheduling a time and date for early voting, meeting deadlines to request and submit an absentee ballot or securing transportation to your polling place on Election Day. Whatever your choice, it is important to follow all guidance to ensure that your vote is counted, and therefore, that your voice can be heard.


Martha E. Pollack

Voter and Election Resources

Registering to vote

Eligible New York state residents have until Oct. 9 to register to vote. New York state residents are able to register to vote or change their party affiliation online, by mail or in person.

  • Online: All New York state residents may register online through the New York state Board of Elections website.
  • By mail or in person: Tompkins County residents may submit voter registration paperwork to the Tompkins County Board of Elections by mail or in person. New York City voters may submit their registration to the NYC Board of Elections. Voter registration paperwork must be postmarked no later than Oct. 9 and received by your local Board of Elections no later than Oct. 14; in-person delivery of voter registration must be received by 5 p.m. on Oct. 9.
  • Online resources, such as USA.gov, Vote.org and the U.S. Vote Foundation, have lists of voting requirements and information for each state.
  • Students who want to help with voter registration and voter engagement work on campus can register to volunteer with Cornell Votes, a non-partisan campaign to increase voter registration, turnout and civic engagement on campus.

Voting in New York state

Registered voters in New York state have three options to cast their ballot.

  • Early voting: New York state voters can vote before Election Day during an early voting period, which runs from Saturday, Oct. 24 to Sunday, Nov. 1. First-time voters who have registered by mail may need to show identification to participate in early voting. Find your county’s early voting sites and times.
  • Absentee ballot: To allow voters concerned about exposure to COVID-19 to exercise their right to vote, New York state has permitted any registered voter to vote by absentee ballot. If this applies to you, visit the electronic absentee portal to apply for an absentee ballot, and select “Unable to appear at the polls due to temporary or permanent illness or disability” as your qualification to vote by absentee ballot. Temporary illness includes being unable to appear due to risk of contracting or spreading a communicable disease like COVID-19. It is recommended that anyone seeking an absentee ballot do so as far in advance as possible. The applications to vote by mail must be received by Tuesday, Oct. 27. When your ballot arrives, read it carefully and follow the instructions to complete it and return it.
  • Election Day: Polls will be open from 6 a.m. to 9 p.m. on Tuesday, Nov. 3. Locate your polling place with New York state’s poll site search tool.