VOTING RIGHTS FOR SECOND HOME OWNERS
Adapted from Shelter Island Reporter, "Prose and Comments," fall 2007.
The voting rights of people who own or rent more than one residence is an important issue that has caught the attention of the media, most recently in a New York Times feature article, "The Principle of the 2nd Home, 2nd Vote" (p.A29, June 22, 2007). A subsequent letter to the editor of the Times (June 29, 2007) from Douglas A. Kellner, Co-chairman of the New York State Board of Elections, further clarifies New York State law on this matter.
"New York's second-home owners…have the perfect right to register and vote at their beach or country homes, even if their primary residence is elsewhere. New York State law gives dual resident voters the right to choose either their primary or their secondary home as their voting residence for all purposes, as long as they have legitimate, significant, and continuing attachments to both places."
New York's permissive approach then allows voters to align their strongest, personal political interests with the appropriate voting district, and this is true whether a voter rents or owns property in his or her chosen district. Of course, in New York, a person can only register and vote in one place.
Aside from the issue concerning the right to register to vote here, the League of Women Voters of Shelter Island often receives the questions about how registering on Shelter Island might affect jury duty, payment of income taxes, and one's status as a rent stabilized or rent controlled tenant. The following highlights some of our research.
Jury Duty: With respect to jury duty, the Commissioner of Jurors creates a master list and selects jurors by combining various data sources—driver's license information, public assistance rolls, unemployment registrations, state tax records, voter registration rolls, and lists of volunteers (yes, you can volunteer for jury duty). If a second homeowner receives a jury summons in the jurisdiction of his second home, which is inconvenient for jury duty, the homeowner may contact the Commissioner of Jurors , explain his dual residency and request that he be permitted to serve in the jurisdiction of his other residence. In New York, depending on the number of days served as a juror, one is typically required to serve only once every six years.
Income Taxes: New York and federal tax laws apply different standards than those that pertain to voter registration. Tax laws generally focus more on the number of days spent in a jurisdiction, for example (voter registration regulators do not) and concern themselves more on where income is derived in determining where taxes are owed. For example, if you work in New York City and pay taxes there, registering to vote on Shelter Island will not change that. However, if you are currently paying income tax in a state other than New York, you should consult your tax advisor about whether registering to vote on Shelter Island might undermine your case for declaring your tax residence elsewhere.
Rent stabilized and Rent Controlled Tenants in New York City: Voter registration is one factor that is considered by the courts in determining a tenant's valid residency. Where one pays taxes, attends a place of worship, and registers the children for school, are also relevant. Case law has established as a minimum threshold 183 days of occupancy to retain residency status as a rent controlled or rent stabilized tenant. This is also a fact sensitive issue, but general speaking, if you have a landlord who is likely to make an issue of voter registration as grounds for disqualification, then it would be prudent to avoid registering outside the city.
I can only note some of the features of our research here, but if you are interested in a fuller discussion of these issues, please see www.coutryvote.org, a website prepared by some New York attorneys.
Wherever you call home, remember that to vote in this year's election you must be registered by October 9. Forms may be picked up at post offices, town hall, the library and online. An application for an absentee ballot must be mailed by October 27 and the completed ballot must be postmarked and mailed to the Board of Elections by November 2. The absentee ballot applications are available in all the foregoing locations and online as well
Last Day to Register to Vote by Mail: October 8th (Must be postmarked the 8th)
Last Day to Register to Vote in Person: October 8th
Last Day to Postmark An Application for an Absentee Ballot: October 26th
Last Day to Apply and Deliver in Person for an Absentee Ballot: November 1st
League of Women Voters of Shelter Island