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New York State Primaries - Do we need Three in 2012?

Incredibly, New York State voters may face three primary elections next year because the legislature has failed to act in response to the requirements of the 2009 MOVE Act.

Right now New York State is under the gun of the US Dept. of Justice to settle on primary dates for its congressional races.  Unbelievably, at least to me, this could result in three primary elections next year.  This includes the already settled Presidential  primary date of April 24, 2012.

So what’s the story here?  Under current NYS law, Congressional and State and local primaries would be held on Sept. 11, 2012.  However a 2009 federal law, known as the MOVE Act (Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act) was passed to ensure that military and overseas citizens have enough time to cast their ballots. This is good.  It requires that absentee ballots get sent to military overseas no later than 45 days before the November 6, 2012 election date.  Since New York State law requires a week between an election and its subsequent certification, the date that is currently set in law – Sept. 11, 2012 – cannot comply.  Last year the state got a waiver from the Justice Dept. on this.  However this year the Dept. of Justice is asking a federal judge to set a date no later than August 18, 2012 since the NYS Legislature has failed to act on changing the Sept. 11 date.

Complicated enough yet?  It turns out that the MOVE Act only applies to Presidential and Congressional races, not to State and local races.  Herein lies the problem.   While the legislature could agree to combine the state and local primaries with a new congressional primary date, for varying reasons the Republican and Democrats in the legislature differ on what the new date should be with the GOP favoring mid-August and the Democrat Assembly leader Sheldon Silver favoring a June date in future years with another waiver for 2012.  The feds aren’t going for this and are asking a judge to set a date.  This could actually result in three dates – April for Presidential primary, a Congressional primary date set by the judge (probably mid-August), and another date for State and local primaries set by the legislature.

Interesting point of information: the New York State Board of Elections estimates the costs of running a primary state-wide is slightly less than $50 million.  So we could spend three times this amount before we even get to the election in November of 2012, not to mention almost a full year of election signs all over the landscape.

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Leo Wiegman November 07, 2011 at 04:13 PM
Ann: I had no idea this was in the works. Thanks, and let's hope our State legislature does the right thing by consolidating at least the Congressional and state and local office primary dates.
Betsy Shaw Weiner November 09, 2011 at 02:15 AM
The League of Women Voters of New York State always has preferred a June primary to a September one. This allows plenty of time for certification of results, which in close elections might be challenged, with resulting court action. Printing of ballots for the general election would not be under the horrendous timetables that often occur with September primaries, particularly when the September date is the latest possible. The MOVE act makes it imperative that action be taken to change the primary date to June effective in 2012 so as to have the most orderly election possible. Of course, if the presidential primary could be consolidated with the primaries for other positions, that would be less expensive, but probably too much to ask, since it would move up drastically the timetable for potential candidates to make decisions whether or not to wage a campaign.

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