Photo used with permission of the New York Immigration Coalition
Participating in civic life can lead to real and meaningful change. In New York City and around the country, young people can and do play an important role leading the charge on key issues. If you’re passionate about a certain topic and want to make a change, stand up for what you believe in. Get involved! Vote. Volunteer. Join a club. There are lots of ways to make your voice heard.
Voting is an important right for all US Citizens ages 18 and older. Every election, voting allows you to actively participate in our democracy by making your voice heard about how you want your government to work.
In New York, you can register to vote in the year you turn 18, or you can pre-register starting when you’re 16. This means you can vote as soon as you turn 18. Learn more about voter registration.
Once you register and turn 18, you can vote in an election at your specific polling location, which you can find online. If you can’t make it to the polls on election day, you can also request an absentee ballot. Make sure you mail it in before the election! As a voter, you’ll get to help make decisions that impact your community and country:
You help decide on leaders and issues in New York City, including the mayor, borough presidents, and members of City Council.
You help decide on the leaders and the issues in New York State, including governor, state senators, and members of the State Assembly.
Elections that happen for leaders a on a national level, including the President and members of Congress.
As a voter, you have the opportunity to participate in the following types of elections:
When you register to vote, you might decide to join a political party (for example, the Democratic Party or Republican Party). If there are multiple candidates in your party for one office, you can vote in a primary election to decide who will represent your party in the general election. Primary Elections usually occur in September in New York City.
A regular statewide or national election. General Elections usually happen in November in New York City.
An election that takes place outside of the normal election time, for example, when an official leaves office before their term is over.
Register to vote
In order to vote, first you need to register. Most people can register when they’re 17. There are many ways you can register in NYC right now:
You can download and print the voter registration form in English or Spanish. After you fill it out and sign it, mail the form to Board of Elections 32 Broadway, 7th Floor New York, NY 10004-1609.
In order to vote in an election, you will need to complete your form by the deadline. The deadlines are different for registration by mail, in-person, and online, so it’s important to be aware of them. Remember: These deadlines are real!
You can make your voice heard by participating in organizations, clubs, and boards in your area. Whether you care about helping your local community, advocating for a particular issue, or standing up for fairness, NYC has a group for you.
Youth Leadership Councils (YLCs) offer high school youth ages 14–21 the opportunity to engage in community and policy issues and be heard by leaders at city agencies, schools, and community organizations.
If you attend a CUNY school, you can apply to join CUNY Service Corps to work on civic, economic, and environmental projects that improve the City. If you’re interested in working with immigrants, you can also volunteer with CUNY Citizenship Now!, a legal assistance program that provides legal services to New Yorkers.
For high school students, a great way to get involved is to join a club. If a certain club doesn’t exist at your school, start one! NYC high school students are encouraged to discuss and advocate for issues and changes they are passionate about.
The New York City Campaign Finance Board has many programs for youth and young adults, including Student Voter Registration Day, the Youth Poet Laureate program, and a Youth Voting workshop.
Get involved in your local community board
You can play an active role in shaping your local community by getting involved in your local community board. Community boards listen and respond to the needs of their district community.
You can join a board starting at age 16, but anyone can attend a meeting. Meetings are a great way to hear from your neighbors and learn about the major issues affecting your community. Find your local community board through your borough: