Legislation introduced for state to pay for primaries

January 29, 2014

— Counties and taxpayers could face up to $50 million in additional costs to support two separate state and federal primary elections over the next two years.

Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, introduced legislation Wednesday calling on the state to pay back local governments for the estimated costs of the two primaries.

“It would relieve local governments of this unfunded mandate and put it on the state, where it belongs,” Tkaczyk said during a news conference today in Albany.

The state is currently scheduled to have three primaries, with federal primaries in June, state primaries in September and a presidential primary in April 2015. The federal primaries were previously in September, but were moved following a federal law passed in 2009 to ensure ballots from military voters are counted.

The two separate primary dates in 2014 are projected to cost Schenectady County more than $100,000, said Brian Quail, the county’s election commissioner. He said it also wastes the time of Schenectady’s 30,000 voters.

To cut back on spending, Quail said Schenectady has decreased its number of poll sites from 80 six years ago to 58 this year.

“It does help with less poll sites and we make it more convenient for voters to pick better poll sites,” he said. “But it is a moving target because we are constantly trying to make the cost for administering elections cheaper.”

Albany County Executive Dan McCoy said the extra primary would cost the county $200,000. He said that burden would be placed on the taxpayers.

“Where do I find $200,000? Now I have to run a primary in June and another one in September,” McCoy said. “So that will only come from one source – the taxpayers in Albany County.”

The Montgomery County Legislature unanimously passed a resolution Tuesday evening in support of Tkaczyk’s legislation. Chairman Tom Quackenbush said the additional cost comes when the county is working to reduce expenses and stabilize its property taxes.

Earlier this year Tkaczyk sponsored legislation to move state primary elections from September to June. The measure passed in the Assembly but not the Senate. She is now looking for the state to pick up the price tag.

“Some counties held three primary dates in 2012,” she said. “With continued failure to act New York is facing two separate primary dates this year. If we can get this done this session, we should get it done.”