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.