By Kyle Hughes, Kingston Freeman
01/29/14, 6:01 PM EST |
ALBANY >> A bill stalled in the state Senate to realign political primary dates in New York will cost local governments tens of millions of dollars if it is allowed to die, officials said Wednesday.
They estimated the cost of holding separate state and federal primaries to comply with a court ruling could total anywhere from $25 million to $50 million.
“It’s a lot of money,” said Ulster County Democratic Elections Commissioner Vic Work. “It’s just like driving on a train with $25 million in ones with the window open and throwing the money out the window.”
State Sen. Cecilia Tkaczyk, D-Duanesburg, said she is sponsoring a bill to move the state primaries from September to June to coincide with federal non-presidential primaries that month. In case that bill doesn’t pass, she has offered a second measure to reimburse local governments for the cost of the September primary.
Also if the September primary stands, she said, the counting of votes cast by 11,000 active-duty service members now overseas will be jeopardized. The shift to a June primary was mandated to bring New York into compliance with the Military and Overseas Voter Empowerment Act intended to provide for timely voting and ballot counting.
“Our state should not be in the unconscionable position of wasting 50 million taxpayer dollars and preventing military members from having their ballots counted,” Tkaczyk said. “But if the Senate’s coalition leadership refuses to act, then we should not force taxpayers and local governments to pay for another wasteful mandate.”
Fifty million dollars is the estimated cost for primaries over a two-year election cycle.
The Senate’s majority coalition has kept the bill in limbo amid complaints from some legislators that holding Senate and Assembly primaries in June would be disruptive to the legislative session that usually ends in late June. New York’s primaries were held in June until 1974, when they were moved to September.
Work disputed the claim that a June primary is disruptive to legislative deliberations, saying lawmakers could adjourn them and then return for a brief summer session to conclude work. “As long as you get the (state) budget passed by April 1, I don’t see where it’s a problem,” he said.
Unifying the primaries also would provide relief to elections inspectors, Work said. “It would improve turnout, and it would cause less confusion to have one primary,” he said.
Tkaczyk held a press conference Wednesday to talk about her bill. Work was scheduled to attend but said other matters kept him in Ulster County. Among those attending to endorse Tkaczyk’s bill was Albany County Executive Dan McCoy and election officials from Schenectady County.