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Basic Poll Worker Manual

Board of Elections' Phone Numbers

If you have questions or problems on Election Day, see your coordinator or call your borough office for information.


1-866-VOTE-NYC (1-866-868-3692)

1-212-VOTE-NYC (1-212-868-3692)














Staten Island


If Inspectors &/or Interpreters Are Missing

To open, an ED should have at least one Inspector from each of the two major political parties. If one is missing:


  • Alert your Coordinator or call your borough office to inform them of the inspector vacancies. If available, the Board will send standby Inspectors to your site to make up for the shortage. These Inspectors will bring a "Certificate to Work" with them;

  • If the Board cannot provide standbys, get approval from the borough office to ask a registered voter to serve as an Inspector. Any voter who is enrolled in the same party as the missing inspector may serve.

  • If an Interpreter, poll clerk, or information clerk is missing, alert your Coordinator or call your borough office to inform them of the vacancy

If Supplies Are Missing

The Election District cannot open without the Voter Registration List. If it is not in the transport bag in the ED supply cart, CALL THE BOARD OF ELECTIONS' BOROUGH OFFICE IMMEDIATELY!


Call the Board of Elections' Borough office if the police officer does not deliver the ED/AD Supply Cart, Ballot Marking Device and Scanner keys.


If any other supplies are missing from either of the supply bags (ED Supplies or Poll Site Supplies), call the Board of Elections' Borough office.

Person Wishes to Register or Change Party Enrollment

If a person wishes to register, change party enrollment, or change address


  • Give the person a Voter Registration Application. The application can be mailed or returned to the inspector.

  • If the person is registering to vote on Election Day, (s)he may not vote in that election.

  • Registration and Voting information is available year-round by calling 866-VOTE-NYC or (212) 868-3692 or on the Board website:

What is Electioneering?

Electioneering is prohibited within 100 feet of the polling site entrance. Electioneering includes:


  • Distributing, wearing, or carrying political literature, posters, banners, or buttons.

  • Soliciting votes.


If you see or are made aware of anyone electioneering, advise a Police Officer and ask him/her to stop the person.

Closing the Polls and Who May Observe the Canvass?


  • The police officer should prohibit voters from entering the poll site after 9:00 p.m.


The following people may observe the closing of the polls:


  • Candidates

  • Authorized Poll Watchers

  • Police Officer

  • Federal, State, City government representatives and the media with proper ID and with authorization signed by the Executive Director of the Board of Elections.

How to Cast a Write-in Vote?

If a voter requests assistance in casting a write-in vote, two Inspectors - one from each party - accompany the voter into the Ballot Marking Device (BMD) to show him/her the procedure.


Give the voter the following instructions:


To write-in a candidate using the Touch Screen:


  1. On the Contest Screen, select Write-In.

  • NOTE: Press the Cancel button to close the write-in screen without entering a candidate and return to the contest screen for candidate selection.
  1. On the Write-In Screen, enter the name of the person for the write-in using the keyboard.

  2. Confirm the write-in text on the top of the screen.

  3. Press OK to accept the write in and return to the previous screen. The Write-in line will be highlighted in yellow, the oval/arrow will be filled in and the write-in text will be displayed. The voter may then continue voting.


To write-in a candidate using the Keypad:


  1. On the Contest Screen, select Write-In.

  • NOTE: Press the Left Arrow on the Keypad to close the write-in screen without entering a candidate and return to the contest screen.

  1. On the Write-In Screen, use the Up and Down Arrow keys on the keypad to scroll through each letter or option being read. Once the voter hears the letter or option they want, press Select.

  2. The BMD audio feature will describe the use of the keypad to vote a write-in choice. Confirm the write-in text as it is being read or on the top of the write-in.

  3. Press the Right Arrow key to accept the write-in and return to the previous screen. The write-in will be read to you again.

  4. Press the Right Arrow key to proceed to the next contest.


After giving the instructions to the voter, both Inspectors leave the BMD so the voter has privacy.

If Voter Needs Assistance

Any voter may be assisted by anyone (s)he wishes except his/her union representative or employer. If a voter is assisted:


Hand the voter and the assistant the Assist Oaths Sheet.  The voter must fill in the top portion and the assistant must fill in the bottom portion.  The Inspector must sign each oath and place the form in the Completed Challenge and Assist Oath Envelope.  Issue the ballot to the voter in the appropriate privacy sleeve.


The following groups of voters may be assisted by Poll Workers or by any person they choose:


Voter Speaks Spanish

(Bronx or Staten Island)


  • Point out to the voter the poster with voter instructions in his/her language, the sample ballot and information that Spanish interpreters are available.


Voter Speaks Spanish/Chinese

(Manhattan or Brooklyn)


  • Point out to the voter the poster with voter instructions in his/her language, the sample ballot and information that Spanish or Chinese interpreters are available.


Voter Speaks Spanish/Chinese/Korean/Bengali



  • Point out to the voter the poster with voter instructions in his/her language, the sample ballot and information that Spanish, Chinese, Korean or Bengali interpreters are available.

The voter may choose to vote in the languages that are accommodated in the particular borough on the Ballot Marking Device (BMD).


Note: The Board of Elections provides Interpreters for certain groups of citizens covered by the Voting Rights Act. However, all voters may and can use any person they elect to assist them in the translation and interpretation of the ballot or the voting process.


Voter Is Disabled Or Illiterate


  • If the voter requests inspector's help, one inspector from each party must be present.

  • A disabled voter may go to the front of the line.


Voter Does Not Know How To Use The Machine


  • Two inspectors, one from each party, accompany the voter to the BMD or privacy booth to instruct him/her.

  • After the instructions, both inspectors must leave the voting booth so that voter has privacy.

A Voter is Challenged

Anyone may challenge a voter at a poll site. A person may be challenged because:


  • The voter's current signature and signature in book seem not to match.

  • Someone has already voted using the person's name.

  • It is believed that the voter no longer resides at the stated address.


When a voter is challenged


  1. Explain to the voter that (s)he has been challenged. If need be, have an Interpreter translate your instructions.

  2. Give the voter a copy of the challenge oath after you have entered the ED/AD on top of page.

  3. Ask the voter to read the oath. Inform the voter that (s)he may vote on the machine only if (s)he signs the challenge oath.

  4. A challenged voter may mark their vote on the ballot or BMD and then scan their ballot to be counted after signing the oath.

  5. Complete the voter record indicating that the voter was challenged; place the signed oaths in the Transport Bag.

Federal Observers, Candidates and Poll Watchers' Rights and Responsibilities

A Poll Watcher is a representative of a candidate, political party or independent group who observes the election to confirm its fairness and get early unofficial results. Each poll watcher must present to the inspector a watcher's certificate issued by a candidate or the chairperson or secretary of a political committee or independent body whose candidates are on the ballot. Only three watchers per candidate or organization may be present at an ED at one time. Only one of these watchers may be within the ED "guard rail" (three feet from the inspectors' table).


Candidates and poll watchers may:


  • Arrive at the poll site at 5:45 am to witness the opening of the polls &/or examine the ballot box.

  • Examine the machine when it is not in use.

  • Challenge voters.

  • Be given information about who has voted, if the inspectors are keeping a list.

  • Attend the canvass and tally at the end of the day.


Candidates and poll watchers may not:


  • Electioneer within a 100 feet radius of the entrance to your site.

  • Disrupt proceedings.

  • Participate in any manner in the conduct of the election.


Federal Observers and others:

Federal observers from the Department of Justice may visit your site to monitor compliance with the Voting Rights Act. Please note that these observers may, with the permission of the voter, accompany a voter and Interpreter into the voting booth to observe the manner in which the poll worker interprets for the voter.


There may also be observers from the Board of Elections, city and state agencies or monitors from community organizations. You are expected to cooperate in a courteous manner with all visitors who have proper identification.

How to Use the Streetfinder and Poll Site List

If you can not find a person's name on the voter registration list, you should check if the voter is at the correct election district. Use the streetfinder and a poll site list to find the correct Election District.


If you still can not find the person's name, follow the affidavit ballot procedures.


To use the Streetfinder:


  • Ask the voter his/her current address.

  • Find the address in the Streetfinder, following these guidelines:

    • Numbered streets (for example, 238th Street) appear first in the Streetfinder.

    • Named streets (for example, Avenue U, Grand Concourse) follow in alphabetical order.

    • Numbered streets with a name before the number (for example, East 12th Street, Beach 135th Street) are found in the alphabetical listing under the word (in our examples that would be under East or Beach).

  • Find the voter's house number (for example, 86-33 55th Road, 1342 Hylan Boulevard) in the appropriate row under the Street name.


Be careful: often house number will be contained in two successive rows. One row contains house numbers that end in an even number, and the next row contains house numbers that end in an odd number.


Check the last digit of the house number you wish to find - in our examples, that would be the 3 (86-33) and the 2 (1342) - and choose the appropriate row.


  • The two columns to the right contain the ED and the AD respectively for each group of house numbers. This is the voter's district where (s)he would vote.


To use the Poll Site List:


  • Look at the top of each column to locate the correct AD.

  • Go down the left side of that column to locate the voter's ED.

  • The poll site name and address are printed to the right of each ED number.


Note: sites marked with a star (*) are currently inaccessible to the handicapped.

Voters' Rights and Voters' Name Missing/Affidavit Voting

  • A voter does not need any identification or ID card to vote.

  • Voters must be given emergency ballots during a scanner breakdown.

  • Any voter in the polling site before or at 9 p.m., when the police officer closes the door, is entitled to vote.

  • Voter with a disability or illiterate voters may be assisted by:

    • an Inspector from each political party

    • any person they wish except their union representative or employer.





  • Issue a Voter Rights Flyer, Affidavit Ballot Envelope, Marigold notice, and a standby paper ballot to the voter.

  • Check to see that the voter has correctly completed Affidavit Envelope and confirm that the voter placed his or her ballot in the Affidavit Envelope and sealed it.

  • Complete the designated entries for the Inspector.

  • Indicate in the "Remarks" column why the voter voted by Affidavit Ballot.

  • Place the completed envelope in the large "A" envelope



Closing the Polls

One of the most important tasks as a poll worker is closing the polls at the end of election day.


Inspectors must remain at the poll site until the closing is complete.


  1. Prepare the scanner for closing:

    See laminated card on side of scanner for instructions


  1. Record the number of votes cast on the Return of Canvass

  • Write the number of votes for each candidate and ballot proposal on the Return of Canvass
  • Scan any emergency ballots and write the number of votes of each candidate and ballot proposal from these ballots onto the Return of Canvass.
  • Enter the public counter number at the closing in the box in the upper left corner of the return of canvass.
  • Enter the ED/AD numbers in the appropriate spaces.
  1. Repack the Supplies:

  • Read and sign the certification of the Voter Registration.
  • Return the supplies to the ED/AD Cart.
  • Enclose all items required in the orange ED return bag.


REMINDER: Do not open the individual Affidavit Ballot Envelopes.


  1. Close the Scanner & Ballot Marking Device

  2. Complete the poll worker forms booklet. (Time Sheet)

  3. Give the Orange ED Return Bag and 2 copies of the return of canvass to the Coordinator to pack in the blue Poll Site return bag.


See the "Closing the Polls" section of the Poll Worker Manual for all the details pertaining to this important duty.