Defying Assembly, Senate Calls for August Primary

ALBANY (AP/Hamodia) -

Republicans in the state Senate have filed a bill to move New York’s primary day to late August, highlighting a lingering impasse with Assembly Democrats who want a June primary to align with an existing federal primary date.

New York’s current September primary date for state offices is effectively too late to comply with a federal law that requires ballots for military and overseas voters to be sent out at least 45 days before the general election. With elections looming this year, Republicans and Democrats in the state Legislature have yet to agree on a single date for both state and federal primaries.

Democrats in charge of the Assembly last month passed a bill that would move state primaries to the fourth Tuesday in June, coinciding with New York’s federal primary date. Senate Republicans complained that a June primary would disrupt the end of the legislative session and lengthen an already long election season by forcing candidates to gather petitions in March.

The legislative session ends on June 30.

Complicating matters for Orthodox Jews, a September date usually coincides with the Yamim Noraim, depressing turnout. Last year’s mayoral primary in New York City was in between Rosh Hashanah and Yom Kippur. Less than 20,000 votes were recorded in the heavily Orthodox neighborhoods of Boro Park, Flatbush and Williamsburg, according to the city’s Board of Elections.

The new Senate bill sponsored by Sen. Thomas O’Mara, the elections committee chairman, would move federal and state primaries to the third Tuesday in August.

“I think already the public is fed up with these elections that go on forever, it seems like,” said O’Mara, an Elmira-area Republican.

Democrats argue that August is a popular vacation month and too few voters would show up at the polls.

If lawmakers fail to agree on a primary date, municipalities would have to do what they did in 2012: hold a primary for federal offices in June and a separate primary for state offices in September. Lawmakers say the cost of holding two primaries runs from $40 million to $50 million statewide.

Susan Lerner, executive director of Common Cause New York, said dual primaries not only cost too much, but complicate primary voting.

“The taxpayer is footing the tab,” Lerner said, “as well as the fact that it frankly depresses already low turnout when voters are confused.”