By Haley Viccaro, Albany Bureau
ALBANY -- The deadline to register to vote in this year's election, including for president, Congress and state Legislature, is Friday.
There are several ways to register to vote: in person at a county board of elections, at state voter registration centers or by mail. The election is Nov. 6.
"I would say it is critical to vote in this general election. It is everyone's civic duty, and people need to be registered by Oct. 12," said John Conklin, spokesman for the state Board of Elections.
Some counties will be open this Saturday to register applicants in person, giving voters an extra day to register. People serving in the military or newly naturalized citizens can register in person by Oct. 26.
Applications by mail must be postmarked by Oct. 12 and received no later than Oct. 17. Change of name, address or party enrollment must be received by Oct. 17 to be processed in time for this year's general election.
"For mail, if you are going to postmark the registration application it has to be by Friday, there is no leeway on that," Conklin said. "If you send your application early and we receive it later than the deadline, your registration won't take effect for this general election."
Absentee ballots must be postmarked by Oct. 30 and by Nov. 5 for in-person applications. Absentee ballots can be filed if a voter is absent from the county of residence on Election Day.
This year there is the option to register to vote online through the Department of Motor Vehicles' website. The DMV provides the system to register to vote when applying for a driver's license or ID card.
"People need to have an established DMV account to register online, which includes having a driver's license or ID card," Conklin said. "The same deadline by Friday applies, and the application will be sent out to the local boards on Monday to be processed."
Qualifications to register to vote include being a United States citizen, 18 years of age, live at present address for at least 30 days before an election, not be in prison or on parole, not judged mentally incompetent by a court and not registered to vote elsewhere.
Siena College pollster Steven Greenberg said registering and voting in elections are important. New York has a heavily Democratic enrollment edge, but there are many close elections for Congress and the state Legislature this year.
"We often don't have competitive statewide races," Greenberg said. "This is a state that's two-to-one Democratic enrollment. It's a very blue state. But we have very competitive races for Congress, for state Senate, for state Assembly, and in local elections."
New York has about 5.6 million enrolled Democrats and 2.8 million enrolled Republicans. The state has 2.3 million people who are enrolled as unaffiliated voters.
New York has had close elections in recent years, Greenberg noted. Rep. Ann Marie Buerkle, R-Syracuse, won by about 700 votes in 2010, while Sen. Stephen Saland, R-Poughkeepsie, won a Republican primary last month by 107 votes.
"It's a cliché, but it's a cliché for a reason: Every vote counts," Greenberg said.
Click here for more information on how and when to register